Clementine Hunter, who was the daughter of slaves, was born onto the plantation thought to have inspired Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe. She moved to Melrose as a girl and worked as a cotton-picker for most of her life. Although she never learned to read or write, Hunter was a natural storyteller who recorded her memories in visual form. Melrose Plantation, which is a National Historic Landmark and a site on the Louisiana African American Heritage Trail, was built by and for free blacks. It became a mecca for artists and writers and inspired Hunter to record her own experiences. Melrose Quilt depicts the historic plantation’s iconic architecture: Melrose House, Africa House, Yucca House, and another building which may have been where Hunter lodged. Pictorial quilts, like other African American improvisational textiles, are highly personal and depart radically from prescribed quality styles more prevalent in European-rooted cultures. Hunter has been celebrated foremost as a painter who chronicled Louisiana plantation life in the early twentieth century. She made a handful of quilts from the late 1950s to the early 1970s, few of which survive.


  • Title: Melrose Quilt
  • Creator: Clementine Hunter
  • Date Created: About 1960
  • Physical Dimensions: 73 x 60 in. (185.4 x 152.4 cm)
  • Credit Line: Smithsonian American Art Museum, Museum purchase through the Barbara Coffey Quilt Endowment
  • Artist: Born near Cloutierville, LA 1886/7 – Died near Natchitoches, LA 1988
  • Medium: fabric

Get the app

Explore museums and play with Art Transfer, Pocket Galleries, Art Selfie, and more


Google apps