Emilienne C.

Verona, Ontario

Kingston Regional Fair

Truth or Folklore? Quilt Codes in the Underground Rail Road

The Underground Railway was a very secretive network and the people involved used many different symbols and codes to help them hide runaway slaves from their owners and the slave catchers paid to recapture them. A theory developed in the 1990s suggests that quilts were a main tool for communicating and hiding these secret codes. Some believe this theory; others don’t. This video looks at both sides so you can decide whether the theory is the truth or just folklore

What was the most interesting thing you learned about your topic?

I only knew basic facts about the Underground Railway before completing the project. I had never heard about the theory that quilts were used to help slaves escape from their terrible lives. I was inspired to create my own quilt showing some of the patterns used by the slaves and now have a better understanding of how some people stand up for what they believe in and help others to achieve a better life.

What important lessons have you learned that you want to share with other Canadians?

We learn about the Underground Railway in school but I wish students were taught more about how it worked, how important secrecy was to its success and how methods like the codes used to make the railway successful.

How would you compare your life today to the lives of those studied in your project?

My life is very different from that of a slave. I do not live in fear of being punished if I do not work hard enough or fast enough. I go to school so I can prepare myself for the future of my choice. In Canada today, we make our own decisions about where we live and how we spend our free time. Best of all – we are free!