RUTH CLEMENT BOND: QUILT ART, ACTIVISM, AND AN EXTRAORDINARY AFRICAN-AMERICAN LIFE
January 15 - March 31, 2012
Ruth Clement Bond (1904-2005) human rights activist, educator, diplomat, and art quilt designer -- was part of an extraordinary family. Despite the racial prejudice and challenges to opportunities facing African-Americans in the 20th century, she and her relatives successfully completed higher education graduate degrees, served in many significant academic and diplomatic posts around the world, and worked in leadership roles on behalf of African and African-American peoples.
Michigan State University Museum presents a new special exhibit, "Ruth Clement Bond: Quilt Art, Activism, and an Extraordinary African-American Life," opening Jan. 15, 2012.
As part of a home beautification project on behalf of the families of black construction workers for the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) Project, Bond designed patterns for art quilts that were then made by wives of the workers. In 2011, Michigan State University Museum was fortunate to acquire one of those original quilts that will be featured in the exhibition.
The design portrays a black TVA worker who is in the throes of choosing between the easygoing life he knew before his TVA job, represented by the woman on the right and the musical instrument, and the government TVA job, represented by the hand of the official government. To Ruth Clement Bond, the meaning of this quilt was always obvious: "He chose the TVA job. It has a hopeful message. Things were getting better, and the black worker had a part in it." Because of Ruth Bond's own remarkable story and the significant contributions that members of her family made on behalf of African and African Americans, this quilt serves as an invaluable resource for teaching and research.
Ruth Clement Bond's "Lazy Man Quilt" will be on exhibit in the MSU Museum's entry hall through March 31.
For more information, see MSU Museum's Cuesta Benberry African and African American Quilt History Collection, MSU Museum's African American Quilt Collections, and the museum's partnership project, the Quilt Index.
More about Ruth Clement Bond and the Bond family:
Ruth Clement Bond completed a master's degree in English at Northwestern University, was head of the English departments at several institutions of higher education, and was active in many organizations that provided education, social services, and advocacy for human rights especially for women and children. Her husband, Dr. J. Max Bond, served in dean capacities at both Dillard and Tuskegee Universities and, while serving in the U.S. Diplomatic Services, was the founder of the University of Liberia. J. Max Bond and Ruth Bond had three children: Jane Bond Howard, Ph.D. Professor of European History, Lincoln University; the late J. Max Bond, Jr., Dean of School of Architecture, City College of New York; and George Clement Bond, Ph.D., Professor of Anthropology, Teacher's College, Columbia University. Julian Bond, their nephew, helped found the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) was the first president of the Southern Poverty Law Center, and was the chairman of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).