At the DuSable Museum of African American History

I spent yesterday afternoon at the DuSable Museum of African American History here in Chicago. I hadn't been since I was a kid. Even though it's a small museum, we still spent over three hours looking at the permanent exhibits and, my favorite part, the special exhibit on Cuesta Benberry and her collection of quilts. Benberry was an educator and historian who became interested in quilts through learning about her husband's family's tradition of quilting. In a 1983 letter, she wrote, "I believe the efforts of the present generation of quilt researchers will result in works so compelling that further denials of the value and importance of quilt history will be impossible."

The beauty of the quilts is obvious, but we were also struck by the care and love that went into them. Some also made political statements or reflected sociological trends. It's hard to choose a favorite, but mine might be the two friendship quilts and the one quilt made by Cuesta Benberry herself, a history quilt. 

This is the one quilt in the exhibit that Cuesta made herself. Quilting has a rich history in America and in the African-American community. It contains elements from some of the other quilts on display, like the W.P.A. tulip quilt. It's hard to see in this photograph, but each block has the date the quilt it's inspired by was made stitched in. (The shoe is from 1890.)

"Joseph's Coat of Many Colors" made by the Gee's Bend quilters in 1980. The quilting community is incredible and their beautiful works have been featured in museum exhibitions around the country.

This is friendship quilt made for Cuesta Benberry in 1979 by her friends, who were the "who's who" of the quilting world. Each block is just gorgeous, and you could feel the love and joy that went into the quilt. I think my favorites are the third row from the top on the left or the third from the left on the top row.