One of the most beloved characters in The Resurrection of Nat Turner is Miss Easter (or auntie Easter, depending on who’s speaking of her). She is based on the real-life woman, Easter, who was the captive/slave remembered for having saved her mistress, Lavinia Francis, during Nat Turner’s uprising.
According to local lore, Lavinia’s husband Nathaniel was an especially cruel young man. Many of the slaves thought to take part in planning the uprising came from his farm. At the time of the revolt, Nathaniel was 24 to Nat Turner’s 31. He was 24 to Easter’s probably 60 or so years.
Considering what must have been the cruel circumstances of Easter’s own life, her actions to save another are especially poignant.
In preparation for writing this book, I read many slave narratives. A common thread in many of the stories is the lack of clothing—coats, shoes, ample clothing to keep them covered. They share accounts of their feet bleeding in cold weather. It is easy to imagine that the lives of slaves owned by some of the poor farmers in Southampton County, where the economy was severely depressed, were incredibly trying.
So, I tried to envision Easter—a woman who made mattresses for others but did not have one of her own; a woman who cooked for others, but was not invited to eat with them; a woman who made quilts for others, but had none to protect her from the cold.
Quilts speak comfort and protection. They are art and some historical quilts carried maps and messages. Quilt making used to be an activity that families and groups of women shared.
If there’s a Miss Easter in your family, a quilt maker, I would like to display her work here. Do you have a quilt that’s been handed from generation to generation? If you are part of a book club making a quilt, or a quilting circle, tell me about your project. Let me know what you’re doing with your quilts: are they on display, are you giving them to children or to seniors?
To honor Miss Easter, to honor the Easters in all our lives, I will post your pictures here and share your stories.
In the next couple of weeks I hope to visit the quilting display at Hayti Heritage Center in Durham, North Carolina. I’ll keep you posted.
Until next time, let the truth rise!