EAST LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) — A unique woven quilt is on display at the Michigan State University Museum, and with it comes nearly 70 years of history.
The “signature quilt” was created by women from Detroit who were members of the Zion Congregational Church of God in Christ.
“All of this started with the fabric on that quilt and the hands that made it,” said MSU research assistant Berkley Sorrells.
MSU Museum Curator Marsha MacDowell found the quilt in an interesting way.
“In a quilt online store based in Oklahoma and I saw this quilt,” said MacDowell. “It had these names, each one appended by the word sister.”
The quilt also included their Detroit address and phone number.
“And I thought, that quilt needs to come home to Michigan.”
MacDowell began working with Sorells who started doing research in December 2020 to find out who these women were.
After some digging into digitized newspapers and census data, including the Michigan Chronicle, MacDowell found what she was looking for.
With all the collected data Sorrells and MacDowell were able to fill in a lot of gaps and believe the quilt was made around 1953.
“One thing that was so great was how many of these women lived near each other and how many of the women are related that are on the quilt,” said Sorrells.
“The quilt is tangible evidence of a community, a vibrant community in Detroit, Michigan, of African-Americans who all had a connection to each other and to a local church.”
Unfortunately, MacDowell says the area was devastated by urban renewal.
All of the houses these women lived in were torn down, but the church still stands.
So they went back for a planned event with current members to share stories.
“And their memories of some of the women whose names are on the quilt and their memories of quilt making and the role it played in the church,” said MacDowell.
For now, the quilt will be on display until the end of February.
“What I hope people take away from this space is just to center and uplift these community voices and these women and their families and the people who remember them and that that shouldn’t obliviously just be during black history month,” said Sorrells. “That should be all the time.”