Textile Society of America


Date of this Version



Published in Textiles and Politics: Textile Society of America 13th Biennial Symposium Proceedings, Washington, DC, September 18- September 22, 2012.


Copyright 2012 by the author(s).


Onasburg, homespun, and linsey-woolsey (Warner & Parker, 1990), broadcloth and Negro cloth (Hunt & Sibley, 1994; Warner & Parker, 1990; Williams & Centrallo, 1990) and kersey (Hunt, 1996) are typical textiles used to create the clothing worn by slaves and are often described in narratives written by African American slaves. The stories of African American slaves are a wealth of information on the lives of all individuals living in chattel environments, but particularly slaves who were usually not photographed. Since textiles are used to create inherently personal items, they are often described in narratives to help the reader's understand the complexity of the narrator's life. The guiding question for this research is whether there is an historical and/or political link between the production of these textiles for slave uniforms and the production of natural fiber crops in the United States through the use of slaves as labor? In this paper the researcher will provide an overview of typical fibers and fabrics used to create slave clothing based on information gained from published African American female slave narratives and a review of literature. In the presentation, the researcher will also compare textile information to records of crop production in the south eastern region of the United States between 1830 - 1865 to determine if and what textiles were produced specifically for slave clothing. The presentation will also include how textiles produced for slave clothing represent the slave's position in society prior to the Emancipation Proclamation. Hunt, P. (1996). Osnaburg overalls, calico frocks and homespun suits: The use of 19th century Georgia newspaper notices to research slave clothing and textiles.