WPA Quotes about the Everyday Use of Quilts


Addie Vinson, Georgia: “Pillows? What you talkin’ bout? You know Niggers never had no pillows dem days, leaseways us never had none. Us did have plenty of kivver dough. Folkses was all time a-piecin’ quilts and having quiltin’s. All dat sort of wuk was done at night… Under our heavy winter clothes was good and warm. Under our heavy winter dresses us wore quilted underskirts dat was sho nice and warm… in the winter [boys] had warmer shirts and quilted pants. Dey would put two pair of britches togedder and quilt ’em up so you couldn’t tell what sort of cloth dey was made out of. Dem pants was called suggins.”

Callie Elder, Georgia: “Our beds was held together by cords what was twisted evvy which way. You had to be mighty careful tightenin’ dem cords or de beds was liable to fall down. Us slept on what straw mattresses and had plenty of good warm quilts for kiver.

Charity McAllister, North Carolina: “De slaves slep’ a lot on pallets durin’ slavery days. A pallet wus a quilt or tow carpet spread on de floor. We used a cotton pillow sometimes.”

Charlie Hudson, Georgia: “De course cloth bed ticks was filled wid ‘Georgy feathers.’ Don’t you know what Georgy feathers was? Wheat straw was Georgy feathers. Our kivver was sheets and plenty of good warm quilts. Now dat was at our own quarters on Marse David Bells’s plantation… Dey put a quilt on de seat for a cushion and hitched a pair of oxen to de sleigh… Dey went f’um one plantation to another to quiltin’s. Atter de ‘omans got thoo’ quiltin’ and et a big dinner, den dey axed de mens to come in and dance wid ’em.”

Ellen Butler, Texas: “They jus’ have a old frame with planks to sleep on and no mattress or nothin’. In the winter they have to keep the fire goin’ all night to keep from freezin’. They out a old quilt down on the floor for the li’l folks. They have a li’l trough us used to eat out of with a li’l wooden paddle. Us didn’t know nothin’ bout knives and forks.”

Ellen Godfrey (“Aunt Ellen”), South Carolina: “Left Marlboro Mond’. Come Conway Friday sun down! Hit Bucksville, hit a friend. Say ‘People hungry!’ Middle night. Snow on ground. Get up. Cook. Cook all night! Rice. Bake tater. Collard. Cook. Give a quilt over your head. I sleep. I sleep in the cotton. I roost up in the cotton gone in there.”

Fleming Clark, Ohio: “De house where I lived wid de white Massa Lewis Northsinge and his Missus, wuz a log house wid just two rooms. I had just a little straw tick and a cot dat de massa made himself and I had a common quilt dat de missus made to cover me.”

Harriet Cheatam, Indiana: “When I was a child, I didn’t have it as hard as some of the children in the quarters. I always stayed in the “big house,” slept on the floor, right near the fireplace, with one quilt for my bed and one quilt to cover me. Then when I growed up, I was in the quarters.” In the words of the interviewer, “Her eyes, as she said, “have gotten very dim,” and she can’t piece her quilts anymore. That was the way she spent her spare time.”

Nap McQueen, Texas: “Dey has Georgia hosses in de quarters. Dey was dem bed places what de niggers slep’ on. Dey bores holes in de wall of de house and makes de frame of de bed and puts cotton mattress and quilt on dem. De white folks have house make bedsteads, too. De first bought bed I see was a plumb ‘stonishment to me.

Maggie Weamoland, Arkansas: “Miss Betty made the calico dress for me and made a body out of some of [her husband’s] pants legs and quilted the skirt part, bound it at the bottom with red flannel. She made my things nice – put my underskirt in a little frame and quilted it so it would be warm.”

Mary Smith, Georgia: In the words of the interviewer, “As we entered the room one of the old women got up, took a badly clipped and handleless teacup from the hearth and offered it to a girl lying in the single bed, in a smother of dirty quilts.”

Mary Williams, Arkansas: “There was an old empty house up on the hill. So they went up there and put their quilts down for pallets by the fire place. ”

Molly Malone, Georgia: In the words of the interviewer, “[The smaller children] were fed cornbread and milk for breakfast and supper, and “pot licker” with cornbread for dinner. They slept in a large room on quilts or pallets.”

Peter Bruner, Kentucky: In the words of the interviewer, “Once Peter, was taken to his master’s house and was made to sleep on the floor with only a ragged quilt to lie on and one thin one over him.”

Red Richardson, Oklahoma: “We slept on the flo’ on pallets on one quilt.”

Rena Raines, North Carolina: “De sleepin’ places wus bunks fer de grown niggers an de chillun slept on de floor on pallets. A pallet wus made by spreadin’ a quilt made of towbaggin’ or rags on de floor, dat’s where de chillun slept in our neighborhood before de surrender.”

Richard Toler, Ohio: In the words of the interviewer, “In one corner a wooden bed was piled high with feather ticks, and bedecked with a crazy quilt and a number of small, brightly-colored pillows…”

Riviana Boynton, Florida: I used to help ’em tear rags and sew ’em an’ make big balls and then they’d weave those rugs, – rag rugs, you know. That’s what we had to cover ourselves with. We didn’t had no quilts nor sheets not nothing like that.”

Sarah Waggoner (“Aunt Sarah”), Missouri: “I washed and cooked for all of us. And ironed too. I hot de irons, great big old irons, in de fireplace. I ironed on a quilt spread out on de floor, an’ I ironed jes’ as nice as anybody.

Uncle Mose, Alabama: To nephew, “Mus’ be some er ole master’s gran’dahters come on er visit. Whyn’t yer come an’ sit some cheers out an’ dus’ em’ and straighten dis quilt ‘stead er settin’ dar lak er black patch on de sunshine? Don’t yer know how ter ack when de quality is comin’?”

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