Social Movements

In the 1960s and '70s, people who traditionally lacked equal access to social and political power ramped up their efforts to create a fairer, more just society. The Civil Rights Movement, which had already come into its modern, 20th-century form in the 1950s, gained greater momentum in the '60s, culminating in the 1968 Civil Rights (Fair Housing) Act, which made it illegal to injure, intimidate, or interfere with anyone due to their "race, color, religion, sex, handicap ..., familial status ..., or national origin." The 20th-century Women's Rights Movement also gained momentum in the 1960s, bolstered by Second Wave Feminism, an intellectual movement that interrogated and challenged all previous arguments and practices that positioned women as second-class citizens. The Gay Liberation Movement, sparked by the 1969 Stonewall Riots in New York, marked the beginning of a more direct, militant approach to seeking equal rights for the LGBT community. All of these efforts led to an atmosphere of change and, at times, upheaval.

Even amidst national strife, quiltmaking flourished. The Civil Rights Movement, in addition to its broader political and social aims, fostered a new kind of image making that challenged and redefined ideas of Blackness, Black life and Black futures. Textile arts in particular represented an accessible and acceptable craft through which African Americans could both reinforce and challenge mainstream culture of twentieth-century America. Alabama's Freedom Quilting Bee was one example of Black craftspeople bringing their own generations-long practice of making quilts to a larger audience and forming the narrative around their work.