This I Accomplish: Harriet Powers' Bible Quilt and Other Pieces
is the new book by Kyra E. Hicks. In it we learn facts never revealed about
Harriet Powers, the former slave, born in 1837, who became the recognized quilt
maker known today for her primitive style appliqué quilts depicting tales from
the Bible and American history.
intimate style of revealing her research findings, step by step, feels like a
Nancy Drew mystery unfolding before me. It is a page turner. “This I Accomplish”
is intended for adults, but certainly would be enjoyed by younger history buffs,
What little has been known, until now, of Harriet Power’s life has been
documented in several publications and exhibits. The workmanship displayed in
her quilts have always been heralded as joyous, remarkable for their
colorfulness and creativity. Yet, often Harriet’s illiteracy was used to justify
or explain the primitive quality of her symbolism of Bible stories in appliqué
figures and shapes. As Kyra’s research findings prove, Harriet was reading the
Bible herself from a young age.
Mary Lyons, author of “Stitching Stars, the
Story of Quilts of Harriet Powers,” shows a corollary between her animal shapes
and those of appliqué clothworkers in Abomey, Dahomey, (now Benin) in West
The intimate quality of this delightful
book about a wonderful African-American 19th century woman is Kyra’s passion and
joy exclaimed at each successful juncture in her discovery process. Reading her
portrayal of the process of researching quilt history is like watching a reality
show. Her highs, lows, questions, assumptions, hopes, surprises, searching and
deciphering are all included in this informal yet packed with details book. The
genealogy of all persons involved, a little to alot, is a large part of the
book. The impact covers a broad range of people in America’s history.
Kyra establishes beyond a doubt that
Harriet made more than two quilts. She delves deep into the history of the
Pictorial quilt, which features blocks depicting both Bible stories and weather
events in America’s past. Kyra’s deep respect and admiration for Harriet is
easily sensed throughout the book, making Harriet become a real person and
furthering my appreciation of her life.
Synchronicity reared its lovely head many
times in Harriet’s life. For example, without giving anything away, if a
particular man from the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston had not been sent to visit
Doris Bowman at The Smithsonian Institute at a particular time, the awareness of
there being two similar quilts would not have taken place as early as it did. No
one else but he and the curator had seen the Powers’ quilt in the Boston
museum’s collection at that time.
About half of the book is a long version of
the tale of discovery of Harriet Powers, her quilts and their owners and it
contains photos. The last half of the book is broken into sections with detailed
additional information to document Harriet Powers fully and to aid future
There is a complete (currently) annotated
bibliography, including books, articles, exhibitions, reproduction and homage
quilts, plays and poems, newspaper articles, videos, art and mixed media and so
on. What a gift!
There is a timeline. It is inclusive of the
first half’s main findings and adds many historical events, exhibits and
inventions to help readers see Harriet and her quilts from a contextual and
It would have been wonderful if more
questions could have been answered as certain as others, but Kyra offers many
opportunities for future researchers and poses them as research questions in the
concluding pages of the book.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading the book. I
hope more information will rise to the top to answer unresolved questions now
that the book is in the public’s hand. Kyra Hicks has proven that digging deeper
dismantles long held assumptions, raises new questions and alters history
forever. Harriet is no doubt smiling down from above. Maybe she can give someone
Kyra Hicks, with her book, will be my guest interviewee in October on
Women On Quilts.
The lines will be open for
Q & A.
This I Accomplish is available on Amazon.com now.