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Quilts were maps for those seeking freedom

5:13 PM, Feb 28, 2011   |    comments
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"The quilt story is just one family, one plantation story," said Kathi Wilson, coordinator of the program "Ozella's Story - The Underground Railroad Quilts," which brought the quilts to Colorado.

Wilson was inspired to do so by a book entitled "Hidden in Plain View," describing the secret meaning that quilts held for slaves who dreamt of freedom.

The patterns on the quilts revealed ways that slaves could escape a particular plantation.

"The wagon wheel meant on the plantation there were wagons all over the place, so maybe you could escape on the wagon," Wilson said.

Pointing to one quilt with spiky shapes resembling a claw, she explained what the pattern may have meant to a slave: "The bear paw pattern. Follow a bear's tracks in the woods."

The patterns described in the book, which Wilson was initially inspired by, were revealed by Ozella McDaniel Williams. She was an elderly African-American woman who was selling quilts in the mid 1990s when the book's author approached her about recording the rich history.

Wilson believes people of all races could benefit from this history lesson.

"There is life in these quilts. There are sprits in these quilts... And, to me, that's what it's all about," said Wilson whose Racine, Wis. church, First Presbyterian Church, was a stop in the Underground Railroad where many runaway slaves hid. "It brings us all together."

(KUSA-TV © 2010 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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