A GLANCE AT HISTORY
Adrene Phillips is a woman on a mission. She and her family support a scholarship fund to support family members college expenses. The family is always seeking new ideas for raising money for the scholarship. Ms. Phillips decided to make a heritage quilt for the family reunion raffle and give the proceeds to the scholarship fund. And so began the creation of an extraordinary, one of a kind, work of art.During a previous visit, Adrene and other family members visited the burialsite of their Great-great Grandfather, Peter Backburn Oliver, at the Moravian Church’s God’s Acre Cemetery in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Through records kept by the Moravian Church, the family first learned about Peter Oliver’s life as a slave sold several times over, his purchase by the Moravian Church for $100 “in hopes of saving his soul”, his training as a ceramics potter and then, in 1785, the purchase of his freedom from slavery. Church records indicate Peter Blackburn Oliver is known as “the last black man buried beside whites in the Cemetery.”
The quilt tells the story of the Peter Blackburn Oliver family and progresses through eight subsequent generations. Included in the quilt design are family photos, family stories, poetry, the family crest, even a copy of the bill of sale for Peter Oliver’s freedom from slavery.
Phillips began working on the quilt in June of 2002 and completed it on July 7 of the same year. The design of the quilt features outside rows of information and transfer photo blocks, surrounding pieced blocks of Roland Freeman’s Underground Railroad pattern on the center field. The design incorporates rich colors of purple, pink, yellow, and green, reflecting Ms. Phillips strong sense of color from her background as a dye master. Also incorporated into the quilt are small swatches of a tiny flag-print fabric, “reflecting the Phillips’ family sense of patriotism to the United States”. She enlisted the help of friends, Jean Arndt, Hattie Havig, Colleen Fox and Helen Gerdes, who helped with setting the informational blocks, piecing and setting the additional blocks and quilting the final work of art.
Upon completion of the quilt, Phillips traveled to North Carolina to attend the Phillips family reunion. Phillips said, “my family members took one look at the quilt and collectively told me the quilt was not going to be placed in the raffle, that I should keep it. I was disappointed, at the time, but I understand now the important significance of the quilt to our family.” She continued, the quilt is a history of the challenges, hardships and accomplishments of the Phillips family over eight generations”.