Textile Society of America


Date of this Version



Crosscurrents: Land, Labor, and the Port. Textile Society of America's 15th Biennial Symposium. Savannah. GA. October 19-23. 2016.


Copyright 2016 by Sonja Dahl


This research project is, as the title implies, quite broad. It has grown from stories shared generously with me by many of indigo’s proponents today, as well as the stories compiled in the historical and ethnographic research of scholars such as Andrea Feeser1 and Jenny Balfour Paul.2 This paper was originally written for oration, and what I offer here is a transcript of this talk as performed at the Textile Society of America’s 2016 symposium, Land, Labor and the Port in Savannah, GA, October 2016. It is an open reflection on some of the stories and broader themes I’ve encountered in trying to understand American indigo culture past and present. My lens here is decidedly critical, one facet of a much wider view of the project. I begin this paper with an indigo origin story from Liberia, first recorded in print by Esther Warner Dendel3 and transcribed here in Catherine McKinley’s version.4 This story functions as an allegorical and conceptual foundation for the series of reflections to follow.