Black History Month

Colouring Pages – Quilt Codes

You can download and print your own quilt codes! Choose one that interests you, print it out and try to reproduce it. You can also try to create your own code!

Find out about Bonita Johnson-deMatteis, the artist who created these images.



Image of a Flying Geese quilt pattern

Flying Geese

This was a signal to follow the direction of the flying geese as they migrated north in the spring. Most slaves escaped during the spring, and the flying geese could be used as a guide to find water, food and places to rest. The quilt maker had flexibility with this pattern as it could be used in any quilt. It could also be used as a compass where several patterns are used together.

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Image of North Star quilt pattern

North Star

This was a signal with two messages: one to prepare to escape and the other to follow the North Star to freedom in Canada. North was the direction of traffic on the Underground Railroad. This signal was often used in conjunction with the song “Follow the Drinking Gourd,” which contains a reference to the Big Dipper constellation. Two of the stars in the Big Dipper line up with the North Star.

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Image of a Monkey Wrench quilt pattern

Monkey Wrench

This was a signal to fleeing slaves to gather all the tools required for their journey: physical, mental and spiritual.

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Image of a Sail Boat quilt pattern

Sailboat

This was a signal that either a body of water was nearby or boats were available.

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Image of a Drunkard’s Path quilt pattern

Drunkard’s Path

This was a warning signal to take a zigzag route to elude pursuing slave hunters and their hounds. A slave travelling south, for example, would not be suspected of escaping.

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Image of a Dresden Wheel quilt pattern

Dresden Wheel

Records indicate that the Dresden Wheel quilt pattern did not emerge until the 1920s.

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Image of quilt code template

Create Your Own Code

You can create your own quilt code or try to reproduce the codes above by using this template.

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Acknowledgments

In 2003, the Black History Cairn Committee of Owen Sound, Ontario, with the assistance of other local groups, began a project to commemorate and acknowledge the contribution of early black settlers to the city’s development and growth. Many of these early settlers were escaped slaves who made their way across the Canada–U.S. border via the Underground Railroad to its terminus, Owen Sound. Besides the unique cairn, the project also included a website; driving, walking, biking and audio tours; and historical interpretive plaques.

Other quilt code images

Find out about other black and white quilt codes or learn more about Underground Railroad quilt codes.

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