Dating to about 1940, this dynamic quilt of birds in flight was owned by Blanche Ransom Coleman Parker, a skilled seamstress, educator and community leader in Tennessee and Missouri. It is presently the only quilt made by an African-American in the DAR Museum collection.
In 1938, Parker became a Jeanes Supervisor in her native Carroll County, Tenn. Jeanes Supervisors were African-American teachers chosen by school superintendents in the rural South to provide leadership and assistance to local teachers and communities. This assistance sometimes involved more than just help with curriculum; the local schools often needed physical maintenance and help with fundraising for books and other classroom materials. These supervisors were named after Anna T. Jeanes, a Philadelphia Quaker philanthropist who worked to improve school conditions for rural African-Americans.
After Parker’s death in 1981, this quilt was found among her possessions. Its bold design showcases an appealing improvisational quality, with deliberately irregular blocks and borders. Other quilts from the region also feature similar pieced birds with distinctive, large triangular feet. Whether Parker made the quilt is unclear: Since the quality of its stitching doesn’t seem consistent with her known sewing skills, it has been suggested that the quilt may have been acquired from members of the community in which she served.