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Pre-Civil War Quilts: Secret Codes to Freedom on the Underground Railroad™

February 2 @ 7:00 PM - 8:00 PM

Free – $10

Join the Evanston History Center for an in-person presentation by Connie Martin. Drawing from her own family history, Martin will tell of her enslaved relatives, who were captured in West Africa and survived the Middle Passage. Martin’s presentation highlights her family’s stories of secrecy, codes, and fugitive slave escape routes from South to North, which was revealed in an information-packed family Bible found dated 1865. Martin’s historical presentation is a multi-media experience including a PowerPoint slide presentation, storytelling, and display of over a dozen beautifully hand-crafted quilt replicas, each sewn by Connie’s mother, especially for this presentation, representing patterns and special stitching used over 300 years ago by abolitionists and fugitive slaves to signify escape routes to the North. Martin will show how quilts were used to signal plans, warn of dangers, indicate how transport might occur, or who might help as “Friends” on the Underground Railroad. Based upon Martin’s mother’s book: Lizzie’s Story: A Slave Family’s Journey to Freedom by Dr. Clarice Boswell, Martin’s presentation will reveal the fascinating family stories of how these quilt codes were kept and used by Martin’s ancestors. You will learn the code meanings and interpretations that have been passed down to Martin, a 6th generation descendant of captured African slaves.

Seating is limited and advance registration is required:

“Pre-Civil War Quilts: Secret Codes to Freedom on the Underground Railroad™”

Admission: $10 (payable online.) EHC members are free.
Tickets are non-refundable.

Connie Martin was appointed an Illinois Humanities Road Scholar from 2021-2022. She earned a B.A. from Illinois State University and an M.A. from Aurora University with a thesis on integrating African American history lessons into educational curriculums. A retired language Arts teacher, M.O.V.E. international fitness convention co-owner, fitness convention Presenter, a 33-year Star fitness instructor, and mother of three sons; she finds joy in telling the secret codes and hidden messages in the family quilts her ancestors shared on the Underground Railroad. Connie mesmerizingly holds her audience’s attention just as her mother did presenting this family presentation for many years. Connie’s mother, Clarice Boswell, wrote the book Lizzie’s Story: A Slave Family’s Journey to Freedom, then created and presented this family presentation for 16 years which is the foundation of the presentation and is currently being made into a movie, Freedom Code.


Evanston History Center

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