Freedom is the open window through which pours the sunlight of the human spirit and human dignity. ~H.B

The Jim Crow Era was a time of much injustice towards Black Americans. It was a chaotic time in which the division between American citizens led to such a strong hatred towards a race and led to a tragic period of time in American history. The hatred of Black Americans in the postwar South led to a “Great Exodus” of Black communities to the west. These brave souls were willing to leave everything behind to start a life in unknown territory, where the fear of discrimination still lived, but was better than where they were living before. The state of Kansas served as one of many safe havens for these courageous families who made the journey. The people behind this movement, known as “exodusters,” knew their families deserved a better quality of life and therefore decided to create a safe place where no discrimination of against their kind would ever be accepted. This humble piece of land became known as Nicodemus and was officially established in 1877. It went on to become a largely known place for its acceptance of former slaves and for giving women a place to make their mark on history.

This quilt shines light on how the women of this time kept creating and preserving their cultures while adapting to the changes that surrounded them. Not only did they persevere, but they also maintained their cultures and laid the foundation for generations to follow, giving everyone a chance to see that women were creating history as much as men were during this time period. These women, who had the odds stacked against them, decided to dedicate themselves to creating not only a safe, but a beautiful environment for their families in their new homes. The creator of the quilt, simply known as Mary Jane, moved to Kansas with her mother, Amanda. Shortly after, she married a man named Robert Scruggs and went on to own a 720-acre farm in Nicodemus. Her story shows how important the preservation of family by women was and how this new hope of freedom changed the lives of millions of Americans.


  • Wilkerson, Isabel. The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration. A Cappella Books, 2016.
  • “Nicodemus Quilt.” Kansas Historical Society. Modified April 2015.