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Iconic Athens quilt maker Harriet Powers to be celebrated

The remarkable legacy of Harriet Powers, an enslaved woman turned iconic quiltmaker, will be celebrated in a special ceremony at the Gospel Pilgrim Cemetery at 530 Fourth Street on Saturday Dec. 2 .

The celebration is scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. and will be presided over by Rev. Dr. James Washington.

Harriet Powers is hailed as the "Mother of African American Quilting," with her quilts considered to be among the most significant and well-known in American quilt history. Born into slavery in 1837, Powers mastered the art of quiltmaking, creating vivid and storytelling quilts that documented historical events and expressed her Christian faith. Her Bible Quilt, displayed at the Cotton States and International Exposition in 1895, attracted thousands and left an indelible mark on American art.

Today, Powers’ quilts are preserved in the prestigious collections of the Smithsonian National Museum of American History and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. They were exhibited together for the first time posthumously at the MFA Boston exhibit, “Fabric of a Nation: American Quilt Stories,” from October 2021 to January 2022.

Harriet and Armstead Powers rest at the Gospel Pilgrim Cemetery, where their original headstone, hand-inscribed by their son Marshall Powers, stood until 2008, when it was found broken and, then removed. Temporary banners marked the gravesite. This year, thanks to the sponsorship of the Women of Color Quilters Network, led by Dr. Carolyn L. Mazloomi, a new memorial has been erected to honor Harriet Powers’ enduring legacy.

Members of the Powers family, the Athens community, and quilters nationally will be in attendance to pay their respects and celebrate the life and art of Harriet Powers. The public and media are warmly invited to join in this commemorative ceremony.

Contact for more information:

Dr. Carolyn L. Mazloomi

Founder, Women of Color Quilters Network West Chester, Ohio

Phone: 513-755-3414 | https://wcqn.org

Kyra E. Hicks

Author, This I Accomplish: Harriet Powers Bible Quilts and Other Pieces Arlington, Virginia

Phone: 703-362-1963 | https://blackthreads.com/

Fred O. Smith

Executive Director, East Athens Developwent Corp

Historian, Athens (Georgia) branch - Association for the Study of African Life and History Phone: 706-247-6777 | https://eadcinc.org

Hope Iglehart

Director of Engagement and African America Heritage Historic Athens

Phone: 706-255-5469 | https://historicathens.com

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