Saturday, September 30, 2017

Two Antislavery Quilts

Signature Quilt with an antislavery message, about 1848,
in the collection of the Royall House.
From the Massachusetts Project & the Quilt Index.

The Royall House & Slave Quarters is a Massachusetts museum with restored colonial era buildings including the only surviving slave quarters in the northern states (I'm always doubtful about words like "only" and "first".) 

Isaac Royall was a Maine merchant with plantations in the West Indies (the Caribbean) who built a mansion in what is now Medford, Massachusetts, in the mid-18th century, described as "one of the grandest in North America.” 

The two-story brick dormitory for slaves who were
brought from the Caribbean.

At least 27 enslaved people worked on the estate. After his father's death Isaac II, a British loyalist, abandoned the colonies and the home when the Revolutionary war began. The slaves became free people by default.

The museum is open to visitors in the summer.

Isaac Royal II and his wife Elizabeth Mackintosh Royall (in blue)

Like many historic houses the museum has a rather random collection of old quilts that have been donated over the past century. Small museums rarely kept detailed acquisition notes and a collecting focus was unusual until recent decades. Whether any of the quilts have a connection to anyone who lived in the house is unknown.

The notes in the Quilt Index indicate this 
quilt has an antislavery message.

But at least two quilts have a connection to the mid-19th-century's antislavery movement, indicating someone saw a focus in the connection to the house's history as a large slave-holding estate.

Mid-19th-century silk quilt. 
Notes in the Quilt Index indicate a poem in
the center.

In the corners a detail photo reveals a printed silk:
"Plead for the Slave."

See the records for the antislavery quilts here:

You can view all the quilts in a museum collection if they are in the Quilt Index by searching by museum name. Here's a link to the quilts recorded at the Royall House.


Rosa said...

Thanks for sharing.Great post.

Robin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Robin said...

What color do you think the sashing in the first quilt is? It looks like one of those faded dull browns. I really like the setting though. The painting is very unusual when you look at it closely.

Barbara Brackman said...

Robin. In looking at the closeup of the first quilt I wonder if it's not a chrome yellow print, which have a tendency to lose color like the stain in that photo. It doesn't look very vibrant in the photo but it does look a lot like some of the pictures in this post: