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L-K youngsters learn about secret code quilts

by Neil Abeles | March 14, 2023 at 10:00 p.m. | Updated March 15, 2023 at 2:15 p.m.
Laura Smith of the Pleasant Hill Quilting Club holds the children’s book “The Patchwork Path” for second-graders at the Linden Public Library. The book is taken from the adult version “Hidden in Plain View,” which tells the story of the secret code quilts of the underground railroad. (Submitted photo)

Three classes of second-graders from the Linden-Kildare Elementary School were given two introductions recently on a field trip to the Linden Library.

"They were introduced to the library itself, which is available to them and their families, and then to the Secret Code Quilts of the Underground Railroad which our program tells about," said Flo Stevenson, Pleasant Hill community leader and member of the Pleasant Hill Quilting Club.

The quilters' program is an original speaking and singing performance telling of the 10 primary patterns used in quilts which communicated messages to escaping slaves trying to reach the north. A house, river, path, weather to watch for or places to hide might be safely indicated by the code on the patchwork quilt.

The second-graders listened, joined in the singing and read from the book "The Patchwork Path," which is a children's spinoff of the adult book "Hidden in Plain View."

"We think the students told all their friends when they got back to school about what they had done on their field trip. I know after our program they would come up and tell us they knew us from church or the community. We think they were glad to hear about the quilts and us, too. Maybe they said to themselves, 'We know these little old women who are telling us such a good story.'"

The Pleasant Hill quilting group meets in the community's historic Rosenwald School building. They are now back up to nine members after reaching their largest number of 14 before COVID hit.


The Pleasant Hill quilters are tickled about this year's upcoming Juneteenth Day celebration on June 19.

Their reading and singing composition of "The Secret Code Quilts of the Underground Railroad" is going to be played for its first time in the county's historic courthouse.

"We are oh so looking forward to this," said Flo Stevenson, leader of the Pleasant Hill quilters. "The program will be 12 noon Saturday, June 17, as part of the Juneteenth celebration in the downtown area."

Stevenson said she expects the program will be highly symbolic in this location.

"We are going to be singing our gospel and spiritual hymns in that courtroom, the first time we have done so. This is a big deal. I feel like we are making history. We invite everyone to come out."

The quilters will present their entire program of 14 narrations and 14 songs in less than a hour. Numerous other activities will be held on this day, to be announced later.

  photo  Linden-Kildare Elementary second-grade students are ready to see a program from members of the Pleasant Hill Quilting Club on the secret quilting code of the underground railroad developed during the Civil War. The presenters are, at back from left, Laura Smith, Lawanda Warren, Sharon Haynes, Ether Blaylock and Flo Stevenson. (Submitted photo)

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