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Quilt Codes Scavenger Hunt

Aurora -  Aurora Memorial Library partnered with the Aurora Historical Society to hold a quilt code scavenger hunt this week. The quilt codes are from the Underground Railroad and Civil War era clues that helped escaped slaves reach freedom.WP_000816These codes came about because most slaves could not read or write, and assisting escaped slaves was a dangerous job, so they needed a form of communication that held meaning for the slaves that would not draw attention to the paths of the Underground Railroad.

The quilt patterns, according to the presentation board at the Aurora Memorial Library, were placed in particular orders with each pattern representing a different meaning. A few of these patterns included the “Monkey Wrench,” which told the slaves to gather any necessary tools to build shelter or defend themselves, and the “Bow Ties,” which meant someone would bring the slaves nicer clothes to help them blend in with the free blacks.

The quilt code theory is controversial among historians and scholars. Because the codes were taught orally, there is no written record proving the codes existed. The stories could only be passed down through the escaped slaves themselves, and because they learned early on not to share secrets outside of their own families, these stories were largely never told.

The children participating in the scavenger hunt took a walk around the library and decoded the messages in quilt squares posted at different sites. In addition to quilt decoding areas, the Aurora Historical Society set out historical items from the era such as books, photos and even kitchen tools to help the children learn about the old way of life.

Children who completed the codes worksheet received a prize, and the children who turn in the form during the Abraham Lincoln Exhibit, which opens Saturday, February 23 and will continue through April 5th, will receive an additional prize.