Harriet Powers

by Ashley from Wallingford

Harriet Powers (
Harriet Powers (

Harriet Powers was born into slavery on October 29th 1837 and she died on January 1st, 1910. She lived in Athens, Georgia, during the time of slavery. During that time period, women slaves were instructed to have a job, so Harriet was trained to make quilts by her mother. She was trying to help African Americans and whites be more equal to one another & to be more religious through quilting stories of the Bible. This is important today because now we know who Harriet Powers was and how she changed the way that people in the 19th century acted. Instead of using violence, they could express their feelings through quilting.

In 1886, Harriet put her quilts on display at the Athens, Georgia cotton fair. This was where Jennie Smith, a white woman, recognized Harriet's quilt. "I had never seen an original design, and never a living creature portrayed in patchwork." I think this quote could inspire anyone to do anything they want to in life and be anyone they want to be. If I was Harriet in this time period and Jennie Smith told me that she loved my quilts, then I would continue to do what I do best. I believe that Harriet's quilting also inspired people to express their feelings. The stories on her quilts showed so much just by looking at them. When Harriet put her quilts into the fair, I think it gave her confidence that if blacks & whites can agree on something as simple as quilting, then maybe one day they came be equal to one another.

Harriet Power's quilt (wikipedia)
Harriet Power's quilt (wikipedia)

Four years later, Harriet offered to sell her quilt because of the hard times. She was going to sell it to Jennie Smith, but she couldn't afford it because of her financial problems. Eventually, Jennie asked Harriet if she was still able to buy her quilt. The quote from Jennie says that Harriet "arrived one afternoon in front of my door in an ox-cart with the precious burden in her lap encased in a clean flour sack, which was still further enveloped in a crocus sack. She offered it for ten dollars_but_ I only had five to give." Harriet had to talk to her husband before she could sell the quilt. When she came back, Harriet told Jennie that she could sell her quilt for 5 dollars. Harriet didn't want to sell her quilt, but she knew it was a good reason because she needed the money. Before Jennie left, Harriet explained each and every picture to Jennie.

There was an impact on Jennie ever since she first saw Harriet's quilt at the cotton fair. When she first saw the quilt, she wanted to buy it, but it wasn't for sale. Jennie's words were, "in one corner there hung a quilt-which 'captured my eye' and after much difficulty I found the owner, a negro woman, who lives in the country on a little farm whereon she and husband make a respectable living..... The scenes on the quilt were biblical and I was fascinated. I offered to buy it, but it was not for sale at any price." Jennie realized how special the quilts were after Harriet told her the stories on the quilts. Jennie also realized how special the quilts were to Harriet. She didn't want to sell the quilt because it was so special to her, but her intentions were good and Jennie was lucky enough to buy them. I think that she learned that no matter what race you are, everyone is capable of doing hard work and achieving something!

Harriet Powers had a legacy. Her legacy was her quilts. People today can benefit from her quilts because they tell folk stories on them and they also tell stories from the Bible. Instead of writing out a bunch of words, she quilted pictures that told the stories. Another was that people today can benefit from the quilts is that they can keep you warm. Harriet's whispered wisdom inspired me, The life that I lived was a struggle but, with her strength and hope she helped and inspired many people around the word. This is true, Harriet did inspire people, in fact, she inspired me to be equal with everyone around me and to continue doing the things that you're good at.

Page created on 5/31/2012 12:36:10 AM

Last edited 10/24/2019 7:13:33 PM

The beliefs, viewpoints and opinions expressed in this hero submission on the website are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the beliefs, viewpoints and opinions of The MY HERO Project and its staff.

Related Links

Harriet Powers - A project about quilting by Jamie Leigh, Undergraduate Student, American Studies Program, University of Virginia

Author Info

Ashley from Wallingford