|Pieced quilt, c. 1935, Sarah Nixon (b. 1902, NC) made for Elizabeth Draycott Ost, NJ|
The style of the quilt is not what determines
the ethnicity of the maker.
Quilt Historian Cuesta Benberry (1923-2007) devoted much of her research to the subject of African-American quiltmakers. In her book "Always There: An African-American Presence in American Quilts" she shared diverse examples of African-American quiltmaking heritage. Improvisational style was one aspect, but certainly not the whole story.
|Pieced quilt, "Bible Story" by Lucy Mingo, Gee's Bend, Ala. 1979|
|an example of highly refined African-American needlework, c. 1820|
The style of this quilt may not say "African-American" to those who are more familiar with the improvisational style of Gee's Bend. We know the maker, though, and that's an important distinction when discussing African-American quilts. It would be difficult, if not impossible, to prove it was African-American if we did not know who made it. The same is true with Amish, Pennsylvania German, and Southern quilts. The style of the quilt is not what determines the ethnicity of the maker.
Thanks again to my mother for the gift of this beautiful quilt, the stories about Sarah; and special thanks to Suzanne Antippas for digging up the census records through Ancestry.com. The quilt is very special, and it's wonderful to have more information about its maker, Sarah Nixon.