Author: Kyra E.
How often do we have the opportunity to participate in a journey researching one of the best-known African-American quilters, Harriet Powers, who was born near Athens Georgia into slavery in 1837 and died in 1910? When Kyra E. Hicks, a quilter herself, began compiling a simple annotated bibliography of references to Harriet Powers, she hadn't a clue as to what “goodies” she would discover and that her findings would eventually culminate in a fascinating tome, This I Accomplish: Harriet Powers' Bible Quilt and Other Pieces
Author: Kyra E.
How often do we have the opportunity to participate in a journey researching one of the best-known African-American quilters, Harriet Powers, who was born near Athens Georgia into slavery in 1837 and died in 1910? When Kyra E. Hicks, a quilter herself, began compiling a simple annotated bibliography of references to Harriet Powers, she hadn't a clue as to what “goodies” she would discover and that her findings would eventually culminate in a fascinating tome, This I Accomplish: Harriet Powers' Bible Quilt and Other Pieces.
Powers, up until recently, was practically forgotten and, as far as we know, only two of her quilts, which were made after the American Civil War, survive today. Although, in all likelihood, it was painful for Powers to sell her quilts, doing so she unknowingly preserved them for future generations. One of these quilts forms part of the National Museum of American History collection at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. The second is found in the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, Massachusetts. Both quilts consist of numerous pictorial squares depicting biblical scenes and celestial phenomena. The one in Washington is known as The Bible Quilt, while the Boston one is The Pictorial Quilt.
With a steady confidence, accessible language, and a willingness to probe, Hicks covers a vast terrain, taking seriously her role as a researcher and a non-academic historian who exhibits an open and astute mind. This is particularly in evidence as she challenges some of the affirmations and presumptions concerning Powers. For example, some believed Powers was illiterate, however, as Hicks discovered through her meticulous research and the uncovering of an crucial letter, nothing could have been farther from the truth. Hicks also ascertained that Powers was an award-winning quilter, she was a wife and mother of nine children, she travelled, she promoted her own quilting skills and she was capable of representing her own artwork while communicating with potential collectors for herself.
Some of the difficulties non-fiction authors are up against in writing books of this genre is introducing new information, building awareness or interest, motivating the reader to learn more and finally spurring action.On all four accounts, Hicks succeeds admirably, as she organizes her book into two principal sections, one dealing with The Bible Quilt while the other concerns itself with The Pictorial Quilt. In both, she provides her readers with detailed descriptions of the quilts, their respective exhibition histories, their owners or chains of custody and interesting profiles of some of the owners. What is particularly noteworthy is that every section of the book is easily appealing and understandable enabling readers to flip around or surf without becoming lost. Each section and subsection of the book has headers that succinctly summarize its contents thus permitting readers to quickly find what they are looking for and obtain important information without having to reading everything. As an example, if you were only interested in reading about Jennie Smith, an art teacher, who purchased Powers' Bible Quilt for five dollars, you can immediately track down the information by referring to the index that will lead you to the appropriate section.
As an added plus, scattered throughout the book are several images of the quilts, pictures of some of the individuals that were connected in one way or another with the quilts and even one of Powers herself (circa 1896-1897), which up-to-now is the only one that survives, showing her wearing a special apron with appliquéd symbols. Hicks even probes ideas of her own concerning this image without providing answers. Also included is a very comprehensive bibliography concerning major works about Powers and he quilts, books and exhibits catalogues, magazine, journals, newsletter articles, newspapers, dissertations, theses, manuscripts, papers, and even plays, poems videos, storytelling, art, interactive media, books with Powers' quilts on their covers, inspired quilts, and finally an extensive timeline. The book ends with further areas of exploration.
Kyra E. Hicks is a quilter and her quilts have appeared in more than forty exhibits in the USA and abroad. As she mentions in her autobiography at the end of the book, “she loves historical investigative research and rediscovering the lives of quilters past.” She has also authored Black Thread: An African American Quilting Book Sourcebook and the children's book Martha Ann's Quilt for Queen Victoria. She has also co-authored Liberia: A Visit Through Books. Hicks also hosts a blog on African American quilting. She has an MBA from the University of Michigan, a diploma from the London School of Economics and Political Science, and a BBA from Howard University.