WPA Quotes about Quilting Parties


Amanda Oliver, Oklahoma: “Sometime de men would shuck corn all night long. Whenever dey was going to shuck all night the women would piece quilts while de men shuck de corn and you could hear ’em singing and shucking corn. After de cornshucking, de cullud folks would have big dances… I slept on de floor up at de “Big House” in de white woman’s room on a quilt.”

Anderson Furr, Georgia: “Christmas was de time when old Marster let us do pretty much as us pleased. Us had all kinds of good things t’eat, and atter us drunk a lot of liquor it warn’t long ‘fore dere was a Nigger fight goin’ on. Yessum, us had cornshuckin’s, cotton pickin’s, quiltin’s, logg rollin’s, and all sich as dat. Wid plenty t’eat and good liquor to drink on hand, Niggers would shuck corn or pick cotton all night. It was de big eats and lots of liquor dat made slaves lak dem things.”

Carrie Hudson, Georgia: “De Marsters, dey planned de cornshuckin’s, and cotton pickin’s, and logrollin’s and pervided de eats and liquor, but de quiltin’ parties b’longed to de slaves. Dey ‘ranged ’em deir own selfs and done deir own ‘vitin’ and fixed up their own eats, but most of de Marsters would let ’em have a little somepin’ extra lak brown sugar or ‘lasses and some liquor. De quiltin’ was in de cabins, and dey allus had ’em in winter when ders warn’t no field wuk. Dey would quilt a while and stop and eat apple pies, peach pies, and other good things and drink a little liquor.”

Celestia Avery, Georgia: “Another form of entertainment was the quilting party. Everyone would go together to different person’s home on each separate night of the week and finish that person’s quilts. Each night this was repeated until every one had a sufficient amount of covering for the winter. Any slave from another plantation, desiring to attend these frolics, could do so after securing a pass from their master.”

Dellie Lewis, Alabama: “Durin’ de Christmas celebration, us all had gif’s. Us had quilting bee’s wid de white folks, an’ iffen a white gent’man thowed a quilt ober a white lady he was ‘titled to a kiss an’ a hug fum her. Atter the celebratin’ we all had a big supper.”

Eliza Washington, Arkansas: “I heard mother say she went to a lot of quiltings. I suppose they had them much the same as they do now. Everybody took a part of the quilt to finish. They talked and sang and had a good time. And they had somethin’ to eat at the close just as they did in the corn shucking. I never went to a quilting.”

Emily Camster Green, Missouri: “We had good times fore we lef’ de ole place, fore Ole Massa died. We usta git together in de ebenin’s… Den some er de women ud put in a quilt en’ some ud git to cookin’ an’ bakin Mmm! de lassus cakes we used to have! An’ wen de quilt wuz finished an de eatin done dey’d clean out de room an dance. Dem sho wuz good times.”

Estella Jones, Georgia: “At quiltin’ bees, four folks wuz put at every quilt, one at every corner. Deses quilts had been pieced up by old slaves who warn’t able to work in de field. Quiltin’s always tuk place durin’ de winter when dere warn’t much to do. A prize wuz always give to de four which finished dere quilt fust. ‘Freshments went ‘long wid dis too.”

Gilliam Lowden, South Carolina: “Dey cooked lots of bread on Sad’day atternoon to last several days. Den we had corn-shuckings, de women had quiltings.”

H.B. Holloway, Arkansas: “Dancing, candy pulling, quilting, – that was about the only fun they would have. Corn shucking, too… At the quilting, they’d get down and quilt. The boys and the young men would be there too and they would thread the needles and laugh and talk with the girls, and the women would gossip. The masters would go there too and look at them and see what they’d do and how they’d do and make them do. They would do that at the candy pullin’ too, and anything else.”

Laura Thornton, Arkansas: “Folks would give quiltings. They don’t think about quilting now. They would quilt out a quilt and dance the rest of the night. They would have a big supper at the quilting. Nice time too. They would kill a hog and barbecue it. They would cook chicken. Have plenty of whiskey too. Some folks would get drunk.”

Mack Mullen, Florida: “The slaves were sometimes given special holidays and on those days they would give “quilting” parties (quilt making) and dances. These parties were sometimes held on their own plantation and sometimes on a neighboring one. Slaves who ordinarily wanted to visit another plantation had to get a permit from the master.”

Martha Cunningham, Oklahoma: “Why I remember when they’d have those big corn shuckings, flax pullings, and quilting parties… I remember they’d have all kinds of good eats – pies, cakes, chicken, fish, fresh pork, beef, – just plenty good eats.”

Mary Colbert, Georgia: “Mother said they had cornshuckings, quiltings, and cotton pickings on the plantation… I can remember the quiltings myself. The women went from one house to another and quilted as many as 12 quilts in one night sometimes. After the quilts were finished they had a big spread of good food too. Now it takes a whole month to quilt one quilt and nothing to eat.”

Mary Wright, Kentucky: “I remember wen we uster hav big time quilting on dem days we sho had a big time fore we start in de morning wid a qater melon feast, den weums quilt erwhile den a big dinner war spread out den after dinner we’d quilt in the evening den supper and a big dance dat night, wid de banjo a hummin en us niggers a dancing, “Oh, Lawdy wat good days dem war.”

Milly Simpkins (“Black Mamie”), Tenessee: “De only fun de young folks had wuz w’en de ole folks had a quiltin’. W’ile de ole folks wuz wukin’ on de quilt de young ones would git in ‘nuther room, dance en hab a good time. Dey’d hab a pot turned down at de do’er ter keep de white folks fum ‘yearin’ dem.”

Mose Davis, Georgia: “My mother went to cornshuckings, cotton pickings, and quiltings. They must have had wonderful times, to hear her tell it. She said that after the corn was shucked, cotton picked, or quilts quilted, they always gave them plenty of good things to eat and drink and let them aloose to enjoy themselves for the balance of the night. Those things took place at harvest time, and everyone looked forward to having a good time at that season. Mother said that Marse John was particular with his slaves, and wouldn’t let them go just anywhere to these things.”

Peggy Grigsby, South Carolina: “The old folks had corn-shuckings, frolics, pender pullings, and quiltings. They had quiltings on Sautrday nights, with eats and frolics.”

Sallie Paul, South Carolina: “Oh, I here to tell you, dey had de finest kind of enjoyments in dem days. It was sho a time, to speak about, when dey had one of dem quiltings on de plantation. Didn’ do nothin but quilt quilts en dance en play some sort of somethin after dey would get done. Colored people would have quiltings to one of dey own house, up in de quarter, heap of de nights en dey would frolic en play en dance dere till late up in de night. Would enjoy demselves better den de peoples do dese days cause when dey would get together den, dey would be glad to get together. Oh, my Lord, dey would dance en carry on all kind of fuss. Yes, mam, blow quilts en knock bones together dat would make a good music as anybody would want to dance by.”

Susie Riser, South Carolina: “De white folks had cotton-pickings, corn-shuckings and quiltings. Dey allus had something to eat at the frolics and I had to help wid ’em.”

Thomas Harper (Reverend) , South Carolina: “After the days work was over, we frolicked, and Saturday afternoons we had off to do what we wanted… Corn shuckings, cotton picking and carding and quilting, the old folks had when dey had big times and big eats.”

Tom Hawkins, Georgia: “Mens had good times at de quiltin’s too. Deir white folkses allus give ’em a little somepin’ extra t’eat at dem special times… De mens kept de fire goin’ and if dey got hold of a tallow candle dey lit dat to help de ‘omans see how to quilt. Most of the quiltin’s was at night and nearly all of ’em was in winter time… I never will forgit how bad dem yankees treated Old Miss. Dey stole all her good hosses, and her chickens and dey broke in de smokehouse and tuk her meat. Dey went in de big house and tuk her nice quilts and blankets.”

Unidentified woman, Georgia: “You got your groceries and washed and ironed on Saturday evenin’ and on Saturday night everybody would use that for frolicing’. Us would have quiltin’s, candy pullin’s, play, or dance. Us done whatever us wanted to. On these nights our mist’ess would give us chickens or somethin’ else so us could have somethin’ extra. Well, us would dance, quilt, or do whatever us had made up to do for ’bout three hours then us would all stop and eat. When us finished eatin’ us would tell tales or somethin’ for awhile, then everybody would go home. Course us have stayed there ’til almost day when us was havin’ a good time.”

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