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While I Yet Live

Explore the tradition of quiltmaking in Alabama
Length: 15 min.
Age Level: 8+
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In this short film, we meet five African American women who are acclaimed quilters and freedom-fighters. Set in the small rural community of Gee’s Bend, Alabama—40 miles south of Selma—the community of women share their cultural and family heritage of quilting. As they explore their own stories, perspectives of love, religion, and the fight for civil rights, they explain the tradition of quilting that brought them together.

Gee’s Bend is home to around 700 inhabitants, most of whom are descendants of the original enslaved African Americans who worked for generations in the fields of the local Pettway plantation. The art of quiltmaking has been practiced and passed down through generations of community and family by the women of Gee's Bend since the mid-nineteenth century. Gee's Bend quilts are bold, unique, and represent rich elements in the history of African American art. While I Yet Live documents the everyday lives of the women in this rural community and their expressions of grief, wisdom, joy, and love.

Use While I Yet Live in Your Classroom

Overview

Students watch While I Yet Live by Maris Curran, a short film about five African American women quilters living in Gee’s Bend, Alabama. An isolated community surrounded by the Alabama River, Gee’s Bend is known for its rich cultural tradition of quilting, which has been passed down from generation to generation since the early 1900s. The women are acclaimed quiltmakers who have been recognized in museums around the world for their artistry and storytelling. The film offers students a glimpse into the women’s lives as they share their stories about quilting, the fight for civil rights, family, grief, love, and joy.

Available for elementary, middle, and high school classrooms, these lessons explore the cultural significance of quilting and its connection to place. 

Students will engage in learning activities that encourage them to consider the significance of the quilters’ lives, their art, and their relationship to Gee’s Bend, including the history of voter suppression in Alabama during the civil rights movement. 

What Students Will Uncover

The significance of quilting in Gee’s Bend, Alabama, and its contribution to culture, art, and society.

Lessons Include the Following:

  • Overview of the history of Gee’s Bend, Alabama and its cultural tradition of quilting
  • Activities with discussion questions and writing prompts
  • Activities connecting to the UN SDGs
  • Companion texts and secondary resources 
  • Updates to current news and events 
  • Connections to National Curriculum Standards and Frameworks 
  • Translations en Español

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