Michigan Quilt Project
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Quilts and Human Rights

Quilts Honor Champions For Human Rights

Individuals who stand up for human rights are regarded as heroes and leaders by those whose causes they champion or support. Some of these leaders are well known—Rosa Parks, César Chávez, Leonard Peltier, Chief Joseph, Martin Luther King, and Nelson Mandela; others are anonymous individuals who have struggled, been punished or tortured, and even lost their lives in their fights against injustices. Quiltmakers honor human rights heroes—famous and anonymous, historical and contemporary.


 


   

South African Black Women Anti-Apartheid Leaders
Phina Nkosi
Soweto, South Africa
2000
Cotton with polyester batting
77 1/2" x 83"
Collection of Michigan State University Museum
Photo by Pearl Yee Wong, all rights reserved

The quilt incorporates portraits of black South African women who the artist felt were instrumental in the struggle for freedom in South Africa. Depicted, left to right and with artist's original spelling in parentheses, are: (row one) Winnie Mandela, Albertina Sisulu, Adelaide Tambo (Addelatte Thamo), Lindiwe [no last name give, but likely Lindiwe Nonceba Sisulu], Thandi Modise; (row two) Nokukhauya Huthuli, Lillian Masediba Ngoyi (Lillian Mosediba Ngoyi), Princess Constance Magogo (Princess Contance Magogo), Dudu Masondo, Stella Sigcau (Stell Sigcawu); (row three) Dipuwo Hanni, Florence Mkhize (Florance Mkmize), Charlotte Maxeke, Dr. Ellen Khuzwayo, Princess Irene (Princess Irene); and (row four) Marry [sic] Nontolwane, Lillian Ntshang, Felicia Mabuza-Suttle, Rose Givamanda, and Kate [no last name given, but likely Kate Molale].

This quilt was included in a national exhibition of crafts shown at the Craft Council of South, Johannesburg, South Africa, 2004. It was acquired during a bi-national South African Cultural Heritage Project for which the MSU Museum was a lead US partner.


   
 

Beverly Ann White was interviewed by Marsha MacDowell on January 21, 2008 at the Michigan State University Museum. On that day, the Quilts and Human Rights exhibit was part of a campus-wide celebration of Martin Luther King Jr.

Mr. Mandela
Beverly Ann White
Pontiac, Michigan
1990
Cotton
43 1/2" x 44 1/4"
Collection of Michigan State University Museum, gift of the artist
Photo by Pearl Yee Wong, all rights reserved

Of this quilt, White says: “My statement quilts are made as a result of emotion. The inspiration for Mr. Mandela came from the very strong emotions of elation and relief I experienced when he was released from his years of captivity in South Africa.” The museum has over forty African-American and African quilts, as well as quilt-related documentary materials, which reflect a wide range of individual styles and traditions found within Africa and African diasporic communities.

 
View from the Mountain Top
Beverly Ann White
Pontiac, Michigan
1991
Cotton
82 1/2" x 48 1/2"
Collection of Michigan State University Museum, gift of the artist
Photo by Pearl Yee Wong, all rights reserved

“I cannot chronicle the brave and valiant fight of each and every one of the honorable souls who have fought for the rights of African-Americans throughout the history of the United States; I can, however, attempt to show several of those heroes who have impressed me. May GOD and those who are not represented here forgive me and perhaps their souls will move other African-Americans to produce more and more quilts that will extol their efforts and keep the struggle alive to ensure the ultimate goal of equality for all.”

White made this quilt to teach students, family, and friends about important heroes in African-American history. The quilt features appliquéd and embroidered portraits of Medgar Evers, Thurgood Marshall, Martin Luther King, Jr., Harriet Tubman, Frances E. W. Harper, Sojourner Truth, Mary McLeod Bethune, Frederick Douglass, Ralph Bunche, Booker T. Washington, and W.E.B. Dubois.

   

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