1908 - 2011

Rachel Carey George

Boykin, Alabama

Daughter of Reverend William Carey, minister of Pleasant Grove Baptist Church, the main congregation in Gee's Bend, Rachel Carey George is also a member of the extended family of Delia Bennett, her mother's sister. Rachel's daughter, Annie Mae Carey, describes her mother's background.

She's ninety-four and was born in Mitchell Hill, Alabama. Her father was William Carey and her mother was Mariah Pettway Carey. She has one daughter, three granddaughters, and one grandson. She's a woman with a lot of wisdom, a God-fearing woman. She worked doing everything—cut wood, chop wood, plow, fix a wall, care for her cows—until she was about ninety years old. She was the strong woman in the family. She liked to farm, fish, sing, cook, build houses, and she loved her quilting. She had plenty of quilts and liked to make quilts all the time.

Her husband died in 1975, and she moved back over here. Her first husband was John Mosely. Then she divorced him and married Arthur George "till death do them part." I don't know much about her first husband. She had to do all the work. It was sometimes black dark, and she had to take the mule out and plow all the corn, all the cotton, all that. He was running the only thing he knew how—his mouth. He wanted to move to Mobile, and she told him she don't leave her farm for nobody. He left and didn't come back. She did everything.

My mama's second husband was pretty good. He worked with her, and they made a good farm. They had plenty cows, hogs, and mules. But she did a lot of the work, and he took the money. She had to work and then stop and do the cooking and everything. He got sick and had a heart attack or something. I don't know too much about him, but he was smart.

My mama worked until she was about ninety and her mind kind of slowed down. She didn't want to slow down. She even tried to climb trees until we stopped her. And she kept on quilting.

After the death of Martin Luther King Jr., Alabama produced an impressive number of African American self-taught artists whose work particularly focused on the Civil Rights Movement and on aspects of history that led to it. This happened, in part, because the action was right on their doorsteps: Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott, the Selma March, the murder of four little girls in the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham. It was a spontaneous response to an emerging opportunity, and it occurred all over the South.

This book and exhibition are part of a growing family of research projects about the African American community of Gee’s Bend, Alabama, and its quilts. Surrounded on three sides by a river, Gee’s Bend developed a distinctive local culture and quilt design aesthetic. In 2002 the inaugural exhibition The Quilts of Gee’s Bend documented these quiltmaking achievements. Expanding upon that initial exhibition and its accompanying publications, Gee’s Bend: The Architecture of the Quilt offers a deeper look into the women and their art, and a more focused investigation into the nature and inspirations—and future—of the Gee’s Bend quilt tradition.

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 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.

Completing the two-volume set, "Souls Grown Deep, Vol. 2" takes the visual and historical presentation of the first volume to a richer level, offering an even broader array of artistic styles and media. Breaking away from the stereotypes that identity folk art and the South with rural, isolated, static and agrarian ways of life, these pages unveil an art that embodies social change and continues to flourish at the dawn of a new century.
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.”

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."