On their porches in Rehoboth, a group of related neighbors used to pass their days making quilts. Amelia Bennett, her daughter Sally Bennett Jones, and her sister-in-law Gearldine Westbrook developed similar quilt styles during decades of working together.
I was born in Hazel, Alabama, going towards Selma. I was raised in Wilcox Corner. My mama, she was named Fannie T. Westbrook. She was a Thomas. Daddy was Alex Westbrook. I married a man—his home was in Marion—Willie Earl Bennett. We met in '35 when he was firing at the slate mill in Peachtree out from Sunnyside. We started to talking, called ourselves courting for about two months, and then got married. We had three children. I worked seventeen years for the William Atkins family over here in Rehoboth. Mr. Atkins was like a daddy to me, was good to me, and he give me this little place here to live in. I've been living here ever since. I been here about forty-two years now, might be longer than that.
I had started to work in the fields when I was eight years old. Us started helping Mama at that time. There was seven of us, and I didn't know it going to be so hard. So, we go out in the field and be back there playing, way back behind. And Mama look back there, break her some switches, put in that apron. My mama didn't play: she tell us do something, and we go to playing, she take that switch to us. Tore us up good. She liked everything just right. She wanted us clean, doing everything right. We was raised by a good mama. Daddy, too. I was eleven years old and I used to watch my mother when she piece quilts, and I would pick up all the little pieces and watch her sew them together. And I kept doing that until I got a big part. And she said, "Honey, you doing good." So then she give me some pieces. She said, "You understand how to cut them?"
"I say, 'I'm going to try.'
"She say, 'Well, if you try you can make it.'"
I kept a-doing that till I pieced up the whole top.
And she say then, "I got some old pants in there," and said, "I'm going to tear them up and see if you can put them together." And she say, "I'm going to quilt your quilt for you." And I was so proud—oh, I was so proud of it. So that day, she say, "I'm going to put your quilt up this evening."
What I first did, I showed it to my daddy, and he was amazed over me making it. From then on all the strips my mother give them to me, and I kept mending them together till I got a quilt top. Whatever we did, my daddy always just carry it up, you know, and that made us do better. He wouldn't never say That ain't right or You didn't fix it like this or like that. He always made much of it. That made us feel good, you know: "Pa said it's alright."
So, when I come home the quilt was up, and as far as I could reach I help her quilt them quilts. And on and on and on, I just kept piecing up and kept quilting.
Quilting and fishing, I loved it. And cooking, too. I love that fishing. Love to see that cork go down.
I remember when Martin Luther King came to Camden. Lot of them went to see him, but I didn't. I didn't have no ride up there. But I hear the stories, and it make me feel very good, the path he cut for us. It was, you know, like you walk into a room and ain't no light on, and you turn on a light in the darkness—that's what Dr. King meant to us. He turned on the light for us.