Sponsored by Betty Blessin, Imogene & Isadore Draper, Ben Gravely, Mallory & Richard Joyce, Debra Poirier & George Mehaffey, Jennifer Reis & Pete Mannen, Joan & Monty Montgomery, Madie & Jim Rountree, Gail Vogler, Brenda & Joe Williams and Lynwood Artists
Known for its bold, improvisational designs and the use of recycled fabrics, Gee’s Bend’s patchwork quilting tradition began in the 19th century and continues today.
These quilts constitute a crucial chapter in the history of American art. The residents of Gee’s Bend, Alabama (also known as Boykin) are direct descendants of the enslaved people who worked the cotton plantation established there in 1816 by Joseph Gee.
After the Civil War, the ancestors of Gee’s Bend’s residents remained on the plantation working as sharecroppers. When cotton prices fell during the Great Depression, the community faced ruin until the Federal Government purchased 10,000 acres of the former plantation and provided loans enabling residents to acquire and farm the land. Unlike the residents of other tenant communities, who could be forced by economic circumstances to move — or who were sometimes evicted in retaliation for their efforts to achieve civil rights — the people of Gee’s Bend could retain their land and homes. Cultural traditions like quilt making were nourished by these continuities.
Today, the non-profit organization Sew Gee's Bend Heritage Builders works to promote the quilters of Gee’s Bend and has fostered collaborations with major fashion houses like Greg Lauren, Chloe and Marfa Stance and exhibitions at major museums around the world inculding the Whitney Museum of American Art. Learn more about Sew Gee's Bend Heritage Builders here.