Sewing Stories: Harriet Powers' Journey from Slave to Artist

Sewing Stories: Harriet Powers' Journey from Slave to Artist
Co-Authors / Illustrators
Age Range
Release Date
October 13, 2015
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Harriet Powers learned to sew and quilt as a young slave girl on a Georgia plantation. She lived through the Civil War and Reconstruction, and eventually owned a cotton farm with her family, all the while relying on her skills with the needle to clothe and feed her children. Later she began making pictorial quilts, using each square to illustrate Bible stories and local legends. She exhibited her quilts at local cotton fairs, and though she never traveled outside of Georgia, her quilts are now priceless examples of African American folk art.

Editor review

1 review
Diversity in Art
Overall rating
Writing Style
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
Learning Value
This picture book starts out with end papers that show Harriet Powers' applique quilt, which is an excellent example of African-American folk art from the 1800s. The story of her beginnings as a slave on a Georgia plantation is augmented by historical tidbits, which are "patched" onto the illustrations so that they look like the words appear on pieces of fabric sewn to the page. There is a lot of information on the life of a slave, as well as on the importance and process of needlework within the slave community. Information about Harriet's life, such as her marriage, children and livelihood farming cotton is presented with consideration for the historical context of the times in which she lived. There is a brief account of her creation of the quilt for which she is famous, as well as the circumstances under which she sold the quilt to an art teacher. Historical notes at the back fill in any gaps.
Good Points
This is an engaging picture book that gives just enough background on one woman's life and her contribution to the world of folk art. The illustrations are bright and clear, and add additional information to the story about what the world looked like at the time. Most readers might not know what a spinning wheel looks like, or how layers of fabric are placed on a frame to be quilted, so these pictures are essential.
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