1952 -

China Pettway

Boykin, Alabama
About

One of Gee’s Bend’s leading gospel singers, China Pettway is also one of the few locals who have attended college and returned to live in the community.

My mother is Leola Pettway and my father is Willie Lee Pettway. He lives in Montgomery. I have five brothers on my mother’s side and three sisters. But in Montgomery, on my father’s side, I have three brothers and two sisters. When I was growing up, we didn’t have a father. My mother raised ten children without a father, but God was our father, and I thank the Heavenly Father because my mother struggled. But we made it. 

My mother learnt me how to quilt. All of my sisters and brothers, when we get home in the evening time from school, once we did our chores—like pumping water, going into the woods cutting wood—we would get our homework. Then we had to get to the quilt. We had to quilt until ten o’clock at night. Then, after that she would let us stop and get to bed. That was every evening except Saturday and Sunday. I made my first quilt, it was a “Star.” And I still have it. My mother, you know, she was challenging me and my older sister. She said that, the first one to piece up a quilt, she would give us five dollars. So I had eight blocks in my quilt, my "Star." My sister, she just had a "Nine Patch." She was lazy anyway; she never liked quilting.

I’m a home-health worker now. I enjoy working with older people. I love my patients and I think they are the most sweet and beautiful people that you can meet. I have to give them their baths, comb their hair, and just fix their beds. And just be like a companion to them. Keep them company. Give them their medicine, give them shots.

Singing is my hobby. I love to sing. I sung this morning and I sung this evening and I sang all day today and I always love to sing. I just enjoy singing. Singing do something for me. I just love the Lord and I love people. I love you all and I hope you will sing with me one day. I like those church songs. Most of the time, I like those gospel songs; sometimes, those old hymns that we used to sing when we was going into the fields. 

We got a lot of singers around here. The White Rose, that’s my mom, Georgianna, Creola [Bennett Pettway], and Arlonzia [Pettway]. And then we have the Holy Travelers, but they at Pleasant Grove Baptist Church. We have the Ye Shall Know the Truth Baptist Church Choir; that’s myself, Revil, Mary Lee Bendolph, Tinnie and Minnie, Lucy Witherspoon, Gloria Hoppins, Annie Ruth, Mary Lisa Pettway, and Diane Abrams.

The Quilts of Gee's Bend

The Quilts of Gee's Bend

The women of Gee’s Bend—a small, remote, black community in Alabama—have created hundreds of quilt masterpieces dating from the early twentieth century to the present. The Quilts of Gee’s Bend tells the story of this town and its art.

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 Quilts of Gee's Bend

The Quilts of Gee's Bend

Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
September 6 – November 10, 2002

"The Quilts of Gee’s Bend" celebrates the artistic legacy of four generations of African-American women from a small, historically all-black community in rural southern Alabama. This exhibition of over sixty extraordinary quilts that were made between 1930 and 2000 showcases a body of work that is bold, spirited, moving, and hailed by Michael Kimmelman, in The New York Times, as “some of the most miraculous works of art America has produced.”

Give Me My Flowers (While I Yet Live) / Quilters at Gee's Ben

Shot and recorded at Gee's Bend Quilters Collective, Boykin AL.

Boykin, Alabama: Sacred Spirituals of Gee's Bend

"Boykin, Alabama: Sacred Spirituals of Gee's Bend", the all newly recorded album by Gee's Bend Quilters, on 2/15/2019.

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."