American (Athens, Georgia)
Harriet Powers (American, 1837–1910)
Object Place: Athens, Georgia, United States
175 x 266.7 cm (68 7/8 x 105 in.)
Medium or Technique
Cotton plain weave, pieced, appliqued, embroidered, and quilted
Not On View
Appliqué quilt, dyed and printed cotton fabrics applied to cotton. The quilt is divided into fifteen pictorial rectangles. Worked with pieces of beige, pink, mauve, orange, dark red, gray-green and shades of blue cotton.
This extraordinary quilt was created by Harriet Powers, an African American woman who was born a slave in Georgia in 1837. Powers is thought to have orally dictated a description of each square of her quilt to Jennie Smith, who had purchased the first quilt Powers made, and arranged for it to be exhibited at the Cotton States Exposition in Atlanta in 1895. This second quilt is thought to have been commissioned by a group of “faculty ladies” at Atlanta University, and given (together with Powers’s descriptions) as a gift to a retiring trustee. What follows is Powers’ descriptions of all fifteen blocks starting in the upper left and moving to the right.
1. Job praying for his enemies. Job crosses. Job’s coffin.
2. The dark day of May 19, 1780. The seven stars were seen 12 N. in the day. The cattle wall went to bed, chickens to roost and the trumpet was blown. The sun went off to a small spot and then to darkness.
3. The serpent lifted up by Moses and women bringing their children to look upon it to be healed.
4. Adam and Eve in the garden. Eve tempted by the serpent. Adam’s rib by which Eve was made. The sun and the moon. God’s all-seeing eye and God’s merciful hand.
5. John baptizing Christ and the spirit of God descending and resting upon his shoulder like a dove.
6. Jonah cast over board of the ship and swallowed by a whale. Turtles.
7. God created two of every kind, male and female.
8. The falling of the stars on Nov. 13, 1833. The people were frightened and thought that the end had come. God’s hand staid the stars. The varmints rushed out of their beds.
9. Two of every kind of animal continued…camels, elephants, “gheraffs,” lions, etc.
10. The angels of wrath and the seven vials. The blood of fornications. Seven-headed beast and 10 horns which arose of the water.
11. Cold Thursday, 10 of February, 1895. A woman frozen while at prayer. A woman frozen at a gateway. A man with a sack of meal frozen. Icicles formed from the breath of a mule. All blue birds killed. A man frozen at his jug of liquor.
12. The red light night of 1846. A man tolling the bell to notify the people of the wonder. Women, children and fowls frightened by God’s merciful hand caused no harm to them.
13. Rich people who were taught nothing of God. Bob Johnson and Kate Bell of Virginia. They told their parents to stop the clock at one and tomorrow it would strike one and so it did. This was the signal that they had entered everlasting punishment. The independent hog which ran 500 miles from Georgia to Virginia, her name was Betts.
14. The creation of animals continues.
15. The crucifixion of Christ between the two theives. The sun went into darkness. Mary and Martha weeping at his feet. The blood and water run from his right side.
About 1895-1898, Dr. Charles Cuthbert Hall (1852-1908), New York [see note 1]; 1908, by inheritance to his son, Reverend Basil Douglas Hall (b. 1888 - d. 1979), New York; between November 2, 1960 and February 7, 1961, sold by Hall to Maxim Karolik (b. 1893 - d. 1963), Boston; 1964, bequest of Karolik to MFA. (Accession date: May 13, 1964) NOTES:  Commissioned and purchased for Hall, President of the Union Theological Seminary in New York, by the faculty ladies of Atlanta University where he had served as chairman of the board of trustees.
Bequest of Maxim Karolik