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A panel from Jacob Lawrence's 1940-41 "Migration Series" (© Jacob and Gwendolyn Lawrence Foundation, Seattle / ARS, NY / Museum of Modern Art / SCALA / Art Resource, NY) By Ira Berlin, SMITHSONIAN MAGAZINE, FEBRUARY 2010

Washington State African American Quilt                Documentation Project

 This project was initiated as the first in a series of projects to record Washington State’s African American quilts, the quilt makers, and their stories. This is an ongoing project and data collected will be cataloged and preserved for inclusion in Washington’s statewide documentation project.

If you live in Washington State and have an African American family quilt, in ANY CONDITION, and would like to be considered for inclusion in this statewide documentation project, please contact A'donna Richardson at

What is a Quilt Documentation and why we do them?


Quilt documentation is important because it preserves our historical information.  It also conveys a testament that reflects how we live, our values, and beliefs.  Quilts are a part of a family’s history.  By documenting a quilt, you are documenting your own history for the future generations of your family.


A quilt documentation also provides historians and researchers data to analyze a quilt's social and cultural significance.  Many African American quilts have no documentation of the history of the quilt. In most cases, all that is known has been handed down orally and not recorded anywhere.


Quilts are so much more than fabrics and threads because they carry our family stories.  A quilt documentation is basically recording the features of your family quilt and telling the story behind the quilt maker.  By publicly documenting your family quilt, you are helping to create a historic public record of African American quilts uncovered here in Washington State.


The quilt documentation process consists of :


--Registering for a Documentation Day appointment.  They usually last less than one hour. 

--At the appointment, you’ll be assisted in filling out an intake form.  We will want to know about you and the quilt maker.  If a photograph of the quilt maker is available, please bring it to your appointment. 

--Your quilt will be examined in detail and the information recorded.

--The quilt will also be photographed.

--The data will be put into the Washington State Historical Society archives ( and sent to the national Quilt Index (

When I was about to retire for a second time in 2014, my husband and I were visiting his family in Texas.  We have been going there for over 30 years, but on this particular visit I noticed almost every bed had a beautiful handmade quilt.  I found out my husband’s great-Aunt Merle made them.  This moved me to think about my own immediate family.  We were born and raised in Washington state, far away from our southern roots in Mississippi and Alabama.  And, we had nothing made with such love and care to pass on from generation to generation.  I decided I was going to learn to quilt, and told my husband I wanted a sewing machine for a retirement gift…though at that time I did not even know how to turn one on.

After teaching myself to quilt, I became interested in quilt history and the stories embedded in the quilts.   I started collecting quilt documention publications from almost every state, including my own state.  It was my understanding that the book, Women and Their Quilts: A Washington State Centennial Tribute, by Namcyann Twelker, did not encompass a wide span of Washington state.  That said, the book was also void of diversity, and I can only attribute that to the signs of the times (late 1980s).  It is my desire to uncover as many African American family quilts as possible in Washington state and tell their stories here…and, to ensure they are included in the next state quilt documentation project.

WA-AAQDP Making Headlines in Yakima (8/16/2021):

TAMMY AYERS, reporter for the Yakima Herald Republic, wrote a wonderful article about a 130 year old coverlet in their community and WA-AAQDP's upcoming visit to do quilt documentation.  Click link to see full article:

You can help support this project with a donation.  Donations are accepted from all major credit cards through PayPal.

“I was leaving the South

to fling myself into the unknown . . .

I was taking a part of the South

to transplant in alien soil,

to see if it could grow differently,

if it could drink of new and cool rains,

bend in strange winds,

respond to the warmth of other suns

and, perhaps, to bloom”


― Richard Wright



The Warmth of Many Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration

By Isabel Wilkerson

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