This Houstonian wants your help archiving African American vintage quilts

“Quilting to me means community,” Laura Marie Casmore says.

By Laura Rice April 4, 2023 11:53 am, ,

Houstonian Laura Marie Casmore has loved quilting since her mom introduced her to it as a little girl. 

“We had to help my mom tie her quilts,” Casmore says. “She would make the quilts as a homemaker, and we would help her complete the quilt. So I’ve always known I wanted to quilt.”

She says began quilting herself because she wanted to tell a story with fabric.

“I can look at quilts that my mom made … and I can remember: That piece came out of a dress; that was a shirt that my brother or my uncle wore,” Casmore says.

She believes quilting is utilitarian as well as artistic.

“Quilting actually is an art form, and I’m so happy to see it has taken on that,” Casmore says.

But, she says, not all quilts have been appreciated in the same way.

“I hear so many people talk about the African American quilters as if they were not significant, as if the work that we create is not top-notch,” Casmore says. “And when we look back in history and we notice that … [African American women] were making quilts for the first ladies of the plantations … for the presidents … but they did not get the recognition.”

As an inaugural fellow in Texas Folklife’s “Folklorist Next Door” program, Casmore is archiving vintage African American quilts.

“I want people to take those vintage quilts out of their closets, their attics, their cedar chests … and allow people to see the beauty in it. You know, share them with people,” Casmore says.

She is collecting stories on her website and in person by talking with people, photographing their quilts and adding them to a database that she is creating. She’s focused on collecting information about African American quilts from the 1970s and earlier – and she says she needs your help.

On her website, “you can find forms, you can find my information to contact me and, you know, send your information,” Casmore says.

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