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For Immediate Release (01-57)
Date: October 17, 2001 
Contact: Steve Simon, 240-567–7952
Montgomery College Displays Quilts Recalling Amistad Uprising
Exhibition at Takoma Park Campus Runs Through November 21

Quilts, whose blocks reflect the spirit and history of the slave uprising that took place on the Cuban cargo schooner, Amistad, will be on display at Montgomery College's Takoma Park Campus, through November 21. 

The quilts are the result of an initiative begun by Professor Mary Staley, a Takoma Park art department faculty member, in connection with Connecticut’s Mystic Seaport. The project seeks to enhance the educational mission of the recently re-created freedom schooner, Amistad, which serves as floating classroom where historic and cultural lessons drawn from the events that surrounded the 1839 incident are taught. 

Staley, who teaches fabric and textile arts at the College, started the quilt project in 1999 when she returned from a sabbatical, where she spent every other weekend assisting in the building of the new Amistad at the Mystic Seaport shipyards. 

The quilting effort, known as the Amistad Friendship Quilt Project, has gathered more than 1000 quilt blocks created by groups and individuals from around the country and around the world. Thus far, 36 quilts have been assembled by Montgomery College students, faculty and staff, as well as others in Professor Staley’s network of colleagues and friends.  A total of 48 quilts will be created and donated to the schooner when the project is completed in another year, according to Staley. 

Many of the images and symbols portrayed in the quilt blocks are taken from the historical events surrounding the takeover of the Amistad by 53 West Africans who were being transported to Cuba to become a part of slave trade there. After wandering the seas for two months, the enslaved Africans were arrested off the coast of Connecticut and initially charged with murder of the Amsitad’s crew by U.S. authorities. After a two-year, the surviving 35 West Africans returned to their homeland of Sierra Leone.

Twenty-two quilts from the total will be on display in the Takoma Park campus library, through November 21. A reception highlighting the quilt exhibition is set for November 2 in the library. The reception will take place between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. and is free and open to the public. 

To make a reservation to attend the November 2 reception or for more information on the exhibition, call 240-567-3904. 

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