The Freedom Quilt, designed by former MDI resident Katherine Fenton-Hathaway, is based on Ashley Bryan's 2016 illustrated book, "Freedom Over Me." PHOTO COURTESY OF CYNTHIA LEAF

‘Freedom’ quilt based on Bryan book

CRANBERRY ISLES — A quilt based on Ashley Bryan’s award-winning 2016 illustrated book, “Freedom Over Me,” has been installed in the Ashley Bryan Storyteller Pavilion, which is next to his house on Islesford.

The quilt was designed by former Mount Desert Island resident Katherine Fenton-Hathaway, who now lives in Chicago, in collaboration with quiltmaker Judith Ivan.

“It was a labor of love; we put our hearts and souls into it,” Fenton-Hathaway said.

“Freedom Over Me,” which draws on actual slave auction and plantation records, imagines the lives of 11 slaves. The publisher, Simon & Schuster, described it as “visually epic…[a] stunning picture book.”

“Through fierce paintings and expansive poetry, (Bryan) imagines and interprets each person’s life on the plantation, as well as the life their owner knew nothing about – their dreams and pride in knowing that they were worth far more than an overseer or madam ever would guess.”

The full quilt.

“Freedom Over Me” was a Newbery Honor Book and a Coretta Scott King Author and Illustrator Honor Book.

The 11 slaves depicted on the Freedom Over Me quilt include a mother and child. Next to each portrait is a tag with the price for which that slave was sold.

“I was struck by Ashley’s resilience, to take something horrible and turn it into hopes and dreams,” Fenton-Hathaway said.

She said that years ago Bryan inspired her to start creating her own art.

“That’s what he does; he just infects you with the creative process.”

The Ashley Bryan Storyteller Pavilion has been closed to visitors since June, except by appointment, because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Officials of the Ashley Bryan Center, which was created in 2013 to “preserve, celebrate and share” his work, hope the pavilion can reopen to the public next summer.

Dick Broom

Dick Broom

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Dick Broom covers the towns of Mount Desert and Southwest Harbor, Mount Desert Island High School and the school system board and superintendent's office. He enjoys hiking with his golden retriever and finding new places for her to swim. [email protected]
Dick Broom

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