Electronic Theses and Dissertations


Jesse Wright

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

M.A. in Southern Studies

First Advisor

Ted Ownby

Second Advisor

Ahmet Yukleyen

Third Advisor

Kathryn McKee

Relational Format



To a large degree, America has adopted African American culture as its own. One may hear and see African American influence in popular music, grammar, fashion and art, but rarely are the sources of these influences divined, in no small part to difficulties inherent in interdisciplinary studies. This thesis will examine the Islamic aesthetics in African American quilts. This work focuses on design and color elements and I trace Islamic influence from West Africa to the U.S. South by way of the slave trade. The original scholarship comes from in the Mississippi Delta, although this thesis also uses quilt books from around the south in order to show widespread regional similarities. Prior scholarship on the Islamic influence in the U.S. focused on a few remarkable Muslim slaves and how they expressed themselves within the region. This thesis relies less on personal biography and more on Islamic cultural diffusion in West Africa before and during the slave trade and then on the remarkable similarities between west African weaving and African American quilting traditions here.



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