Hidden in Plain View Hardcover – Jan 19 1999
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When quiltmaker Ozella McDaniels told Jacqueline Tobin of the Underground Railroad Quilt Code, it sparked Tobin to place the tale within the history of the Underground Railroad. Hidden in Plain View documents Tobin and Raymond Dobard's journey of discovery, linking Ozella's stories to other forms of hidden communication from history books, codes, and songs. Each quilt, which could be laid out to air without arousing suspicion, gave slaves directions for their escape. Ozella tells Tobin how quilt patterns like the wagon wheel, log cabin, and shoofly signaled slaves how and when to prepare for their journey. Stitching and knots created maps, showing slaves the way to safety.
The authors construct history around Ozella's story, finding evidence in cultural artifacts like slave narratives, folk songs, spirituals, documented slave codes, and children's' stories. Tobin and Dobard write that "from the time of slavery until today, secrecy was one way the black community could protect itself. If the white man didn't know what was going on, he couldn't seek reprisals." Hidden in Plain View is a multilayered and unique piece of scholarship, oral history, and cultural exploration that reveals slaves as deliberate agents in their own quest for freedom even as it shows that history can sometimes be found where you least expect it. --Amy Wan
From the Forewords:
"Tobin and Dobard have taken quilt scholarship to another level. They have revealed that quilts are at once sources of pleasure, information, and meaning and are central to understanding the history of people of African ancestry in North America."
--Floyd Coleman, Ph.D.
"Jacqueline Tobin is to be applauded for being in the right place at the right time, and having enough faith to go back again and again to listen to the story of one family's effort to encode knowledge in their quilt tops. And one salutes her partnership with Raymond Dobard, whose knowledge of quilting technology is so outstanding. Their persistence--is vital to our understanding of African American culture and its myriad contributions to American life."
--Maude Southwell Wahlman, Ph.D., author of Signs and Symbols: African Images in African American Quilts
"By engaging in a vast amount of research, authors Tobin and Dobard have established a significant linkage between the Underground Railroad effort, escaping slaves, and the American patchwork quilt."
--Cuesta Benberry, author of Always There: The African American Presence in American Quilts
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IN 1994 I TRAVELED TO CHARLESTON, SOUTH CAROLINA, TO LEARN more about the sweet-grass baskets unique to this area and to hear the stories of the African American craftswomen who make them. Read the first page
Front Cover | Copyright | Excerpt
Top Customer Reviews
This isn't the place for a "debunking", however. If you're interested in seriously evaluating the facts of the issue, and comparing this book's unfounded (indeed unique) claims against real scholarship on the Underground Railroad and the history of quilting, a good place to start is the research of Leigh Fellner, which appears in the March 2003 issue of Traditional Quiltworks magazine as well as the Hart Cottage Quilts website.
The glaring errors and inconsistencies in Tobin's premise are so obvious that an elementary school class sent her a number of questions. I think the author's furiously-backpedaling response, in which she blames everybody down to the graphics editor (whatever happened to author's proofs?), speaks more clearly about the sloppiness of this "pop culture" book than anything any reviewer could possibly say...
It is possible that along a route going north, a quilt could be displayed outside of a house as a message that this was a "safe house" or something of that nature. Escaping slaves mostly traveled by night, so hanging out a quilt would only work during the daylight hours. There's a story for children called SWEET CLARA AND THE FREEDOM QUILT that is quite good. The girl in the story makes a quilt out of scraps of material that detail the plantation that she lives on; also detailed, was the area outside the plantation, which was more difficult since the girl had to have that area described to her. In the book, the quilt is used as a map for anyone attempting to escape and go to Canada. I really liked the idea and found it plausible.
I think, that after all of this time, we'll never know for sure if quilts were hung as signals for the travelers on the Underground Railroad, but the idea of a quilt helping to save a human life is comforting.
When I first began to read the book, I was actually quite interested, as I had never heard the story before. However, it became somewhat of a struggle to finish; at times the book seemed repetitive, or I got the feeling that the authors had to stretch their imaginations too much to get their desired end-result. Despite this change of heart, I did find the story quite enjoyable. The existence of such a code may be hard to swallow for historians and others in our society, but the possibility of its truth make the story worth reading.
Most recent customer reviews
Bought this as a gift and the receiver loved the product, but I was personally disappointed that the information was presented as fact, and no mention was made of how heavily... Read morePublished 7 months ago by Stephanie A MacKay
Hi everyone, I am sure that I have my facts correct only because I live In B.R. Ontario where we have our famous spot for one of the underground railroads. Read morePublished 22 months ago by J. Tschirhart
This book gives as much information about the Underground Railroad from the Southern States to Canada as possible. The detailed information is wonderful. Read morePublished on Oct. 25 2013 by Pam
As a quilter, I was completely amazed on how they all began. My sister-in-law who loves to quilt as a past time was quite taken when I told her about this amazing book.Published on Dec 27 2012 by Ethel Jensson
I am interested in both quilts and the underground railroad. However, this book struck me as speculation and heresay rather than a well-researched record of historical fact. Read morePublished on Aug. 21 2003 by E. Burton
If this book were a pile of gravel with a few gold nuggets included, the gravel would be plentiful, and the nuggets would be rare. Read morePublished on June 28 2003 by Peter L. Swinford
I recommend this book only if the reader understands it is complete fiction, being peddled as fact. I will not address the many historical inaccuracies that other reviewers have... Read morePublished on Feb. 28 2003
Hidden in Plain View should not be accepted as solid history. The book contains many errors of fact large and small. Read morePublished on March 25 2002 by Christopher Densmore
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