16 Art: Freedom Quilts


Students will learn about the plight of enslaved people trying to reach places where they could be free. 

Freedom Quilt Game

Freedom Quilts were secret codes sewn into blankets that lead slaves to freedom.  Each panel told a story about how relatives and friends could follow the best way to free states.  African Americans would memorize the symbols and then try to follow them on their way to freedom.  In addition, some of the signs might be posted along the way.  There were many ways abolitionists (those willing to risk their lives for the freedom of others) communicated in code with fleeing slaves.  Pulling on their ear as they pass one another indicated that the slave would receive help if they followed at a distance.

Flying Geese:  Follow the flying geese north to Canada.

Drunkard’s Path:  Go back a bit, slave hunters may be near.

Log Cabin:  People in this house will protect you. 

Tumbling Blocks:  The time as come to pack up your belongings and get ready for your journey.

Wagon Wheel:  A person with a wagon will bring you further on your journey here.

North Star:  The North Star does not move, making it a perfect source for night time directions.  Many slaves traveled at night to avoid being seen.

Must see video! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uk5eMPXqmq0

EHA Supplies:

  • Large paper
  • EHA templates (these are in your teacher box see bottom for examples)
  • Glue
  • Colored pencils
  • Quilt examples


  1. Discuss African Americans’ necessity and desire to escape slavery.
  2. Explain abolitionists and their role in helping slaves escape.
  3. Read the passage above.
  4. Students will create patches that tell a secret code. 
  5. Please ask them to either use the design provided or a simple design like the one shown.
  6. Color the designs.
  7. Glue their squares on the large paper.
  8. Ask your students to tell their parents their code.

Extra:  Harriet Tubman

EHA Templates:

Posted in: art

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