The Secret to Freedom - Examine a Quilt - Codes in Quilts - More Lessons.
Codes in Quilts - Ozella's Story

The book Hidden in Plain View by Jacqueline Tobin tells the story of Ozella McDaniel Williams and her recollections of how quilts were used as signals along the underground railroad. This lesson introduces the quilt codes, explains what each stood for, and asks students to think about why these symbols were important and what they would have done had they been a slave trying to escape. Wherever possible, we have included samples of these patterns from actual quilts.

Introduction for Students

Ozella McDaniel William was a quilter and a retired teacher. She had no children of her own.

Ozella's family has passed down a story. The story tells about a secret code.

The code helped slaves remember the ways to escape to freedom.

Ozella's grandmother told the story to Ozella's mother. Ozella's mother told it to her.

The secret message is hidden in quilt patterns from the days of slavery.

The women who were quilters remembered the story and passed it down to each new generation.

One day Ozella shared the story with a writer named Jacqueline Tobin.

Ozella told the writer about each quilt pattern. Let's look at some of these patterns; maybe we can figure out what they meant.

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