TVA Quilt Correspondence

September 9, 1976
Quilts and Human Rights
Battle Creek, Michigan, United States
A description of the TVA quilt written by its owner, Maurice Seay. Seay received the quilt as a gift from its makers in 1937.
This quilt representing a black boy’s state of indecision was handmade by the members of the Pickwick Dam Negro Women’s Association and presented to me (Maurice F. Seay) in the spring of 1937.

The president of the Association in her presentation statement said (and I remember her exact wording), “Because you, Dr. Seay, have been the leader in making an integrated program in education for all the people of Pickwick Village, we wanted to give to you this present made by our own hands.”

Then the quilt was unfolded and the president explained to me its symbolic meaning. A black boy being urged as indicated by the governmental arm of a white man to work hard and obey the law, while at the same time the guitar held in his left hand, symbolic of fun, leisure, and frivolity, was suddenly urging him to a life of frivolous living. The sun depicted in the lower part of the quilt represents the African sun and the two dark patches of black at the edge of the design represented Africa, the homeland for blacks. The green in the border of the design represents abundant vegetation which God has so generously provided for us.

Having made these explanatory remarks, the president of the Association concluded with the statement, “Our black boy is faced with the making of an important decision.”

Pickwick Dam Village was built near the Tennessee River by the Tennessee Valley Authority for some of its employees who were to build a dam in northeastern Mississippi. The integrated educational program included recreational activities, library service, vocational training for people of all ages both blacks and whites. Children and high schoolers form the village were bussed to segregated elementary and high schools (in the Mississippi system of public schools. At this time this partly integrated educational programs was probably the first ever attempted at public expense in the state of Mississippi.

As was customary at that time, the village consisted of two sections. The Negro section was built in one valley and over the ridge into the other valley the white section was built. Though separate, the houses and the facilities were identical in the two sections. The educational facilities including the library, gymnasium, and classroom buildings were built on the redge which separated the two sections of the village.

Load More