Known for their bold, improvisational designs and use of recycled fabrics, for generations, the women of Gee’s Bend have been creating patchwork quilts that expand the expressive boundaries of the quilt genre and the realm of Black visual culture. Hailed by the New York Times as producing “some of the most miraculous works of modern art [in] America,” the rich quilt-making tradition of Gee’s Bend has flourished for over two centuries and constitutes a crucial chapter in the history of American art.

While the quilts of Gee’s Bend have been exhibited in museums worldwide and are today held in the permanent collections of over 40 art institutions across three continents, this road trip offers you the opportunity to immerse yourself in the very place that has given rise to such unparalleled artistry.

Visit the Freedom Quilting Bee Legacy

In March 1966, out of the fervor of the Civil Rights Movement, more than sixty quilters local to Gee’s Bend, Alberta, and the surrounding area came together to establish the Freedom Quilting Bee (FQB), the first Black-owned business in the county and one of the few Black women’s cooperatives in the United States. The Bee quickly grew into a robust organization operating at the forefront of the civil rights, women’s rights, and cooperative movements of the 1960s and 70s, securing contracts with major retailers such as Bloomingdale’s and Sears, Roebuck and Co. to produce made-to-order quilts and other quilted merchandise. This helped to inspire a national revival of interest in patchwork. 

Begin your journey along County Road 29 at the Freedom Quilting Bee Legacy (4295 County Road 29; 334-573-2065) in the historic FQB building, a museum and community center that works to honor and continue the FQB’s history of economic, political, and artistic achievement.

Year-round exhibitions, workshops, and tours allow visitors to learn about the tradition of activism and artistic excellence in Alberta and Gee’s Bend and engage with the extraordinary women who uphold it today.

Immerse Yourself in Exhibitions at the River Gallery

Continue to drive along County Road 29 to the heart of Gee’s Bend, where a visit to The River Gallery (12021 County Rd 29; 334-573-0020) is a must. Here, be inspired by year-round exhibitions curated by Souls Grown Deep, which bring together historical and archival research, display quilts and other artistic creations inspired by the quiltmakers, and spotlight voices from the community. This is a unique opportunity for visitors to delve deeper into the area's extraordinary history and artistic heritage. 

Alongside the temporary displays, the exhibition A History of Gee’s Bend, installed permanently outside The River Gallery and available 24/7, offers a comprehensive introduction to the area's history to help contextualize its exceptional place within the history of the United States and American art.

Drive Along the Gee's Bend Heritage Trail

In 2006, as part of its American Treasures Series, the U.S. Postal Service issued a set of first-class stamps featuring 10 Gee’s Bend quilts made between 1940 and 2001, marking the first time work by living artists was included in the series. The Gee’s Bend Heritage Trail commemorates those 10 quilts and the artists who made them.

This self-guided driving tour allows you to explore the community and its quilt-making heritage at your own pace. Located close to where their creators lived and worked, Heritage Trail markers feature full-size reproductions of the quilts, biographical information, personal stories, and photographs of their makers.

Heritage Trail maps are available at the Gee’s Bend Welcome Center in Boykin and the Freedom Quilting Bee Legacy in Alberta, or you can download the mobile map (as cell service may be unreliable, it is recommended that you do so in advance).

Where to Stay

If you are interested in staying locally in Gee’s Bend, please contact the Freedom Quilting Bee Legacy by email or 334-573-2065.

Centrally located in downtown Selma, the Woolworth Lofts are woman-owned guest favorites. These five lofts with 12-foot ceilings and heart pine floors throughout can be rented as individual suites or together to accommodate up to 18 people. (Not handicap accessible.)

Explore local city websites for additional accommodations in Selma, Camden and Thomasville.  

Don't Miss

The Gee's Bend Airing of the Quilts Festival

Every October, join the Gee’s Bend community in this annual one-day celebration of its generations-old quilt-making tradition, featuring quilt displays and sales, workshops, guided tours, food, music, and more!

In the words of fourth-generation Gee’s Bend quiltmaker Claudia Pettway Charley: “At this festival, you'll get introduced to the quilters and to the lifestyle of Gee's Bend. It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get hands-on experience, from workshops to storytelling, and learn what our community is really like. We have a whole different language here, and this is your chance to learn it. A common phrase around here is, ‘You never meet a stranger when you come to Gee's Bend.’ We can’t wait to welcome visitors to our community at the Airing of the Quilts Festival.” 

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