Southern African-American quilt, attributed to Margaret or Lema Carr of Rogersville, Tennessee, recently exhibited at Colonial Williamsburg. This quilt displays an ingenious and unique design by incorporating the traditional Schoolhouse pattern with a semi-abstract Tree of Life motif, using hand-stitched pieced and appliqued cotton and synthetic fabrics. Eight rectangular panels enclose multicolored schoolhouses with beads representing door knobs and embroidered flowers, facing each other; the “roofs” and panel borders are joined by a central green vertical “tree trunk” to become its limbs, with all enclosed within a mauve border. Off white cotton backing. 78 1/2″ x 63 1/2″. Early to mid 20th century. Provenance: According to family tradition, Margaret Carr (born ca. 1909), an African-American schoolteacher from Rogersville, Tennessee, made the quilt or inherited it from her mother. Margaret appears in the 1940 United States census from Hawkins County, Tennessee when she was 31 years old and living on North Church Street with her parents George and Lema Carr. Although she had completed four years of college, Margaret was working as a cook in a private home at the time of that census. Margaret also taught at Swift Memorial College in Rogersville. She remained single until at least 1971, when the local Rogersville Review newspaper reported that Miss Margaret Carr hosted a meeting of the Woman’s Home and Foreign Missionary Society of Russell Chapel Church at her home on Church Street. Russell Chapel was an African Methodist Episcopal Church. (source: The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation). Provenance: the collection of Mary Jo Case, Kingsport, Tennessee. Exhibited, “A Century of African-American Quilts,” McCarl Gallery of the Art Museums at Colonial Williamsburg, February, 2017, to June of 2018. CONDITION: Overall good condition. Scattered areas of staining/discoloration. 3/8″ area of shattering, top right. Two schoolhouses, second from top on right and bottom on left, are missing doorknob beads. Velcro band for display across top of quilt backing.
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