1947 - 2020

Nazareth Major


    Working with and learning from Arie Pettway, her artistic mother, Nazareth Major started early as a quiltmaker. Arthritis brought a premature end to her work.

    I was about fourteen or fifteen; Mama went to Camden to get a rooftop for the house and she had said she was going to put up a quilt when she got back. While she was gone, I put up the quilt on the horses she had made. When she got home, I was out in the yard under the chinaberry tree quilting. She had to ask, "Who put that quilt in the frame?" I was always so nosy; I did whatever I saw my mama doing.

    I loved piecing and quilting. I made quilts at home for the quilting bee. Sometimes I would quilt them, too. Mrs. Witherspoon would get some of the prettiest cloth. I like things to look odd. I collect odd big rocks to put in my yard—don't like things looking perfect. I don't like the new stuff. I like antiques. I love garage sales, Goodwill, Salvation Army.

    I loved quilting but got to the point I couldn't do it. I have pinched nerves in both hands and both legs. I went in the field when I was about seven or eight. I hoed down in the place they called "the swamp." I always wanted to do whatever I saw older people doing. I picked cotton. I plowed with a motor garden plow in my twenties and thirties. I love Boykin but if I had to leave, I guess Selma would have to do. But I don't want to leave here.

    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."