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

Connie begins this presentation by telling the history of her family who were slaves captured in West Africa and survived the Middle Passage. She tells 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.

Connie also tells the origin of the Underground Railroad, and reveals key famous abolitionists, slave routes passing through our counties in Illinois, and shows the quilt code on slides and fabric quilt pattern, along with instances of special stitching used in over a dozen beautifully hand-crafted quilt replicas each sewn by Connie’s mother especially for this presentation.

Program Topics

  • History
  • U.S. Slavery
  • Quilts

Book this presentation by first scheduling a date with Connie via email or phone at 630.486.0862, then completing the Road Scholars Host Organization application.


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About Road Scholar Connie Martin

Connie earned a B.A. from Illinois State University, and an M.A. from Aurora University with a Thesis in Integrating African American History Lessons in 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. She tells the history of the Underground Railroad, safe routes, and the stories of how the quilt codes, their meanings, and interpretations that have been passed down to her, a sixth generation descendant of captured African slaves forced into slavery in America.

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About Illinois Humanities Road Scholars Speakers Bureau

Since 1997, our Road Scholars Speakers Bureau has invited Illinois writers, storytellers, historians, folklorists, musicians, and living history actors, among others, to share their expertise and enthusiasm with people throughout our state. It also supports local nonprofit organizations – including libraries, museums, arts councils, historical societies, civic groups, and many others – in presenting free-admission cultural programs of high quality to their communities for a modest application fee, which can be waived if your organization is experiencing financial hardship.

Our Road Scholars Speakers Bureau roster features speakers hailing from many different communities across Illinois who offer presentations on topics in history, archaeology, philosophy, literature, theater, film, music, politics, and other subjects that are thought-provoking and engaging. The breadth of these offerings reflects our conviction that the humanities can help us to examine the world in all its varied shades and discover in it the remarkable, the strange, the fantastic, the tragic, the humorous, and the beautiful.

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