African American Quilters


Mozell Benson: African American Quilter

Curated by Dr. Maude Southwell Wahlman
Dorothy and Dale Thompson/ Missouri Endowed
Professor of Global Arts
The University of Missouri-Kansas City


The visual equivalent of jazz - cool, rhythmic, and unexpected - describes this traveling exhibition of 20 African American quilts created by women from the Southern United States.

This dazzling display presents an indigenous American art, an alternative aesthetic tradition quite different from widely known European-American quilts. Many African American quilts are characterized by strips, bold colors, large designs, asymmetry, multiple patterns, and improvisation. African American quilts are unique in American arts because they show a combination or creolization of African textile ideas and American technical and functional ideas. This exhibition identifies:

1) Those ideas which have been consciously and unconsciously handed down by generations of women who trace their ancestry to Africa;

2) Technical and aesthetic ideas also known in Euro-American quilting traditions; and

3) Unique African American innovations.

The nation's strongest tradition of African American quilting survives today in the Southern United States, practiced by women who have pursued their art in face of difficult economic, social, and political odds. The exhibition honors living artists and promotes an active art. African American quilting should be recognized and celebrated now so that it can be preserved and continued in the future.

African American Quilters and Mozell Benson, African American Quilter, are available in 2006, 2007, and 2008. For more information,