Underground Railroad Quilts

Have you ever heard of the code quilts of the Underground Railroad?

The idea of these quilts is a clever and exciting one. In the days of slavery, escaped or fleeing slaves could depend upon subtle signals in the form of quilts hung from porches or clotheslinse. Depending on the pattern, the escapee would know to keep off the road, or to confuse their path, or any number of instructions to better help them evade recapture. It was, in essence, a secret code hidden in plain sight.

Guiding Quilts

Quilt Messages

Quilt symbols

Most historians do not consider the idea of the slave quilt code to have any factual backing, and many have tried to debunk the entire idea. One historian, Dr. John Michael Vlach, has stated that though it’s a compelling thought, the quilt code would simply have been too much of a risk to be practiced in reality.

Quilt code wouldn't have been worth the risk

In the end, the quilts may not have been a code at all, but simply a story to stir the imagination. On that count, the quilts succeeded.

Read on about the quilt code in this article, or make a search of your own on Newspapers.com.

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