Sewing Stories, Harriet Powers’ Journey from Slave to Artist

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Sewing Stories, Harriet Powers’ Journey from Slave to Artist
by Barbara Herkert, illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton
Alfred A. Knopf, 2015

Harriet Powers’ biography introduces young readers to the life of a slave in the early 1800’s.

Harriet was an artist and quilts were her medium.  As a young child she watched others card cotton, spin thread and dye and weave cloth.  As she grew, she helped with stuffing quilts and eventually making them.  Quilts made of scraps, sewn after a long day of work for their master, were often the prized possession of the slaves.  Harriet married and after the Civil War gained her freedom, but lived in poverty.  Jennie Smith saw Harriet’s first story quilt and offered to purchase it.  Harriet refused, but created a quilt for her.  The quilt was displayed at the Exposition in Atlanta.  Admired, she received an order to make another.  Harriet passed in 1910, but her quilts are displayed in the National Museum of American History and the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.

Photos of the quilts fill the end papers and friendly illustrations rendered in gauche with Corel Painter 11 and Photoshop.  The text gently introduces readers to the hardships slaves and newly freed African-Americans faced after the Civil War.

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