Emerging onto the first floor of Quinn Hall out of the wind and rain on Monday, April 22, I entered into a lobby full of graduate and undergraduate students, faculty, and community members chatting over refreshments. The majority of guests, however, were volleying for entrance into the TMD Department’s gallery space, where the famed quilts of “An American Quilt: Unfolding a Story of Family and Slavery” were displayed.
The exhibit was inspired by Rachel May, author of the book by the same name and PhD alum who graduated from URI in 2015. While she was earning her PhD in English at URI, May happened to take a Textiles, Fashion Merchandising and Design class and became fascinated by a pair of quilts made in the 19th century and donated to URI by Franklin Cushman, great-nephew of Susan and Hasell Williams. The Williamses were a slave-owning couple who met in Providence while Hassel was attending medical school at Brown University. Shortly after they were married, they moved to Charleston, South Carolina, where they owned four slaves by the names of Minerva, Eliza, Jane, and Juba.