Anne Archer-Johnson, a kindergarten teacher at Primrose School at Kennesaw North, said after coming across the book “The Patchwork Path: A Quilt Map of Freedom” by Bettye Stroud, she knew it would be a great way to educate her 5- and 6-year-old students about black history.
“This book struck me because it talked about freedom and struggle and it was about a little black girl from Georgia and her papa that escaped from a plantation,” Archer-Johnson said. “The kids seemed to have related to that immediately, especially the 10-year-old girl Hannah in the story.”
Using the book, Archer-Johnson was able to launch a month-long lesson in which students learned about slavery, Martin Luther King Jr. and what it means to celebrate Black History Month each February.
She also taught the children how to sew story quilts like Hannah does in the book, using felt squares, glue and needles with thread.
“They communicated through the quilts,” Archer-Johnson said. “This was how they communicated in the Underground Railroad as well. Hannah’s mother made the quilt, and she took it with her when she escaped.”
Archer-Johnson said her students did a fantastic job making their own 12-patch quilts that retold the story of how Hannah escaped from the Southern plantation.
There was one square on each quilt left empty for the void after Hannah’s sister, Mary, was sold to another plantation owner. Many of the students decided to glue a heart in that square to “fill the void,” Archer-Johnson said.
“This whole experience has been so heartwarming to me,” she said. “Especially hearing them tell others the story of Hannah.”
One of her students, Molly Nowak, said she thoroughly enjoyed reading the story and that her favorite character was Hannah.
“My favorite part about the quilt was when I put a funny shirt on my arrow,” she said with a big smile.
This project was also the first time Molly had ever sewn or seen a story told by making a quilt.
Parents were invited Thursday to hear the story of Hannah and see their children’s quilts.
Amanda Richey, whose 6-year-old Noor Mouyane is in Archer-Johnson’s class, said she has been amazed at what the lesson and quilting project has meant to her son.
“What he learned about slavery and race and the importance of Martin Luther King Jr., those things were all connected by this project, and that made it very relevant and meaningful,” she said. “He’s been talking about race, who was Martin Luther King Jr. and connecting that history to our local reality.”
She said this is also the first time her son has really understood the meaning of Black History Month.
“This is really the first time I’ve seen him engaged with a project that also taught him some really important lessons about leadership and history,” she said. “I think it’s been very successful.”