KNOXVILLE, TN (February 19, 2007) On Sunday, February 25, ETHS will host Kyra E. Hicks, as she presents a lecture based on her latest book, Martha Ann’s Quilt for Queen Victoria, a children’s version of Martha Ann Erskine’s remarkable journey from slavery in East Tennessee to the Court of Queen Victoria. Ms. Hicks is also the author of Black Threads, An African American Quilting Sourcebook and is a noted authority on African American quilts. She will be available following her lecture for a book signing.
The story of Martha Ann Erskine grew out of East Tennessee’s strong abolitionist movement of the early 1800s. Martha Ann was born in about 1817 in East Tennessee, the daughter of a former slave, George Erskine, and a slave mother named Hagar. Her father’s freedom had been purchased two years earlier by slavery opponent Dr. Isaac Anderson, president of Maryville College, who then educated him for the ministry. George was licensed to preach in 1818 and afterwards, for more than a decade, he conducted extensive speaking tours seeking donations to help him purchase freedom for the rest of his family. In 1830, the family of ten sailed for Liberia, a colony for freed slaves where Erskine was to be an agent for the Presbyterian Board of Foreign Missions. Erskine, his wife, mother, and four of his children died during the first year.
Daughter Martha Ann survived. From her new home she watched British naval ships patrolling the West African coast to prevent slave traders from capturing Africans and selling them into the same life of slavery that she had escaped in East Tennessee. Her gratitude to the British and to Queen Victoria grew over the years. Martha always dreamed of meeting the Queen someday and trusted God for her dream as she saved her pennies for passage. But what gift could she give a queen? She designed and made a silk quilt bearing the image of a Liberian coffee tree to give her. Finally, in 1892, Martha Ann was granted her dream. At the age of 76, she appeared before the Queen’s Court at Windsor Castle to publicly present her gift of appreciation, thus completing a remarkable journey. From enduring the toils of slavery to becoming a guest of Queen Victoria, Martha Ann Erskine’s amazing voyage across three continents fascinates children and historians alike.
The East Tennessee Historical Society, whose mission is to preserve, interpret and promote the region’s history, is located at 601 S. Gay Street (across from the Tennessee Theatre) in downtown Knoxville. The lecture and book signing will begin at 2 p.m. at ETHS. The program is offered at no charge and is open to the public. Directions to ETHS are available at www.east-tennessee-history.org. For additional information, call 865-215-8824.