1919 - 2006

Agatha P. Bennett

Boykin, Alabama
About

The daughter-in-law of Delia Bennett, Agatha Bennett developed her skills while living near her many quiltmaking in-laws. Her husband, Reverend Pernell Bennett, one of Wilcox County's most respected clergymen, talks about Agatha and himself.

She was born in 1919, in Gee's Bend, across the creek, Herbert Hall Wilkinson Plantation, place called Young. She grew up living with Emma and Jacob Coleman, them were her grandparents. From the start everybody called her "Cat." Back then we didn't have much schooling—maybe about two months in the wintertime. Back in them days, you got children they go by they mama's name, till the welfare and child-support people got so strict, they got people to go by their daddy's last name.

Back then, man can have ten children and go on his way, don't take care of none of them. Then they come on with the idea of child support, one of them presidents back then.

We married in 1940 and we have fourteen children—nine boys, five girls. Cat farmed growing up—cotton, corn, sweet potatoes, peas, molasses. She also worked with the NYA and also at the canning factory up the road. Was three canning factories down here. One here in the area called White, one up there in Sodom, and one in Pettway.

After we married, we farmed—same stuff. After we laid by, I cut pulpwood, logs. Cat helped me plow and hoe and gather the crop. I became a preacher in June 1956 at Pleasant Grove Missionary Baptist Church. Now I'm also pasturing at the Good Hope Baptist Church at Minter, up above Camden, and at St. Peter in Minter, and at Friendship here in Gee's Bend. I be busy every Sunday someplace or another.

Cat can't tell you about none of this now. She's got the old-timer's disease, you know.

Gee's Bend: The Women and Their Quilts

Gee's Bend: The Women and Their Quilts

Gee’s Bend quilts carry forward an old and proud tradition of textiles made for home and family. They represent only a part of the rich body of African American quilts. But they are in a league by themselves. Few other places can boast the extent of Gee’s Bend’s artistic achievement, the result of both geographical isolation and an unusual degree of cultural continuity. In few places elsewhere have works been found by three and sometimes four generations of women in the same family, or works that bear witness to visual conversations among community quilting groups and lineages. Gee’s Bend’s art also stands out for its flair—quilts composed boldly and improvisationally, in geometries that transform recycled work clothes and dresses, feed sacks, and fabric remnants.

The Quiltmakers of Gee's Bend

This uplifting, Emmy-winning PBS film tells the modern-day "Cinderalla" story of the quiltmakers of Gee's Bend, Alabama. Artists born into extreme poverty, they live to see their quilts hailed by a The New York Times art critic as "some of the most miraculous works of modern art America has produced."