The residents of Gee’s Bend, Alabama are direct descendants of generations of slaves who worked the cotton plantation established in 1816 by Joseph Gee. After the Civil War, their ancestors remained on the plantation working as sharecroppers. In the 1930s the price of cotton fell and the community faced ruin. As part of its Depression-era intervention, the Federal Government purchased ten thousand acres of the former plantation and provided loans enabling residents to acquire and farm the land formerly worked by their ancestors. Unlike the residents of other tenant com­munities, who could be forced by economic circumstances to move—or who were sometimes evicted in retaliation for their efforts to achieve civil rights—the people of the Bend could retain their land and homes. Cultural tradi­tions like quiltmaking were nourished by these continuities.

Most Gee's Bend’s residents accordingly did not participate in The Great Migration, during which over six million African Americans from the rural South journeyed to the cities of the North, Midwest, and West from about 1916 to 1970. By remaining in Alabama, most were not afforded the opportunity to become participants in the burgeoning American middle class, the wellspring of opportunity for many of the artists today recognized in the global art market.

In the 1960s, spurred on by Martin Luther King, Jr’s visit, community members became active in the Civil Rights Movement, ferrying to the county seat at Camden to register to vote. Authorities reacted by eliminating ferry service altogether, effectively isolating the community and cutting it off from basic services. During this period, local women came together to found the Freedom Quilting Bee, a workers cooperative that provided much-needed economic opportunity and political empowerment.

Throughout this time, and up until the present, the settlement's unique patchwork quilting tradition that began in the 19th century has endured. Hailed by the New York Times as “some of the most miraculous works of modern art America has produced,” Gee’s Bend quilts constitute a crucial chapter in the history of American art and today are in the permanent collections of over 20 leading art museums.

The Quiltmakers

1946 - 2005
1904 - 1995
1900 - 1981
1916 - 1994
1922 - 2003
1914 - 2002
1919 - 2006
1892 - 1976
1891 - 1985
1905 – 2000
1926 - 2012
1903 - 1999
1918 - 2001
1938 – 2015
1923 - 2001
1916 - 1993
c. 1896 - 1986
1915 - 1981
1926 - 2020
1904 - 1974
1947 - 2020
1922 - 2011
1884 - 1970
1931 -
1908 - 1992
c. 1880 - 1969
1951 -
1917 - 2015
1921 - 2004
1929 - 2010
1914 - 1997
1911 - 2005
1924 - 1997
1894 - 1971
1921 - 2006
1909 - 1993
1918 - 1993
1923 - 2008
1928 - 1988
1950 –
c. 1881 - 1945
1957 - 2021
1900 - 1990
1927 - 1990
1924 - 1993
1904 - 1972
1900 - 1953
1916 - 2010
1903 - 1983
1926 - 1987
1914 - 1997
1930 - 2003
1930 - 2003
c. 1914 - 1981
1902 - 1981
1925 - 2001
1929 - 2012
c. 1898 - 1955
1934 - 1994
1943 - 2010
1921 - 2010
1949 - 2017
1896 - 1973
1920 - 2015
1898 - 1972
1916 - 1988
1898 - 2001
1936 – 2001
1910 - 2000
1928 - 2013
1916 - 2010