Every stitch tells a story: A Black quilter confronts injustice

For generations of Black women, quilting has been a way to tell stories and protest injustice. In this video, we profile a world-renowned quilter whose work has taken a new turn as the country wrestles with racism. 

The stitches holding the cloth together trace a jagged, zigzag path – a pattern quilter Ed Johnetta Miller has never used before.

It represents the shape of her life, she says, as a Black woman living in the United States in 2020.

The quilt, which Ms. Miller made after the killing of George Floyd, is part of a new series of African American quilt exhibits opening in Minneapolis. The exhibits showcase a centuries-old tradition among Black women that’s drawing new attention in light of a national conversation on race.

Since the era of slavery, Black women have used quilts not only to keep warm, but also to tell their stories and protest injustice. Quilters use a variety of fabrics and other materials to form figures, words, and symbols to convey their message. Ms. Miller, whose work has been shown around the world, is known for her improvisational combination of colorful fabrics. It’s one of the distinct styles of African American quilts, “like a riff in jazz” with color, she says.

“We Black women, who know that injustices exist, have been using the needle, the thread, and the cloth to tell our story,” says Ms. Miller. “We will continue to tell our story. We will never stop telling our stories.”

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