Network Norwich and Norfolk > Regional News > News Archive > 2007 news archive > Secret quilts exhibition tell story of slavery

Secret quilts exhibition tells story of slavery

Quilt2Norwich Quakers are marking the role their predecessors played in the abolition of slavery in the British Empire 200 years ago with an exhibition of secret message quilts, African food and slave songs.
Norwich Quakers were involved in the campaign to end slavery 200 years ago and the exhibition (part of the Norfolk and Norwich Festival) includes an original copy of the first petition printed by Quakers nationally and sent to parliament in 1783. It also contains the signatures of some of the Gurneys to support the publication of Olaudah Equiano's story.
The quilt exhibition from May 19 to June 1 at the Friends' Meeting House Upper Goat Lane, will include 15 small quilts replicas of those used as coded messages by slaves to indicate when they should run to the Underground Railroad.
Organiser Ann Lewis said: “This was in the 1860s in America but Quakers were very much part of the Underground Railroad, providing safe houses and help. In fact it was American Quakers who were the first to record their entire opposition to slavery and to urge British Friends to stop the trade.
“The story of the quilts being used as codes is told in a book called Hidden in Plain View by Jacqueline Tobin and Raymond Dobard but there isn't much other corroborating evidence so it is controversial.
“However, we, as Quaker Quilters have been inspired by the story and like the visual images of the quilts as women's history. There will be explanations on each quilt of what is meant and how it was used.
Quilt1“There will also be another exhibition from Anti-Slavery International showing the history of enslavement and how it continues now and what we can do about it.”
Exhibition is open from May 19th till June 1st 2007. Open:  Saturdays: 10-4; Sundays 1-4; Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays: 10 – 3:30, at the Friends’ Meeting House, Upper Goat Lane, Norwich
Quakers will also be marking the bi-centenary on Tuesday May 22 at The Friends' Meeting House, with a full day of events.
The day has been planned with the help of members of the African and Caribbean communities in Norwich and include at 10am and 2pm, interactive sessions for schools by invitation of drama, poetry and song, to provide an insight into the experience of slavery.
From 4pm to 7pm, viewing of exhibitions: The History of the Involvement of local and national Quakers in the Abolition; The Slave Quilts; and  Anti-Slavery International: History and Current Work.
At 5pm a buffet of authentic African food takes place, costing £5 per person. Please book Tel: (01603) 624854.
At 7 pm Songs of Slavery performed by a Children's Choir from Wells-next-the-Sea.
Finally at 7.30pm a Public Meeting: Quakers said "No" to Slavery - why and how?  with speaker Marie Lasenby; The Cultural Legacy of Slavery in Today's Britain with Audrey West; and The Work of Anti-Slavery International with  Mariam Ouattara.
Ann said: “There will be time to consider our own role in all that has followed and what action we might take now.”
More details from Ann Lewis on  01603 451532.


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