Texas Connects Us: Denton Quilter Preserves History, Heritage in Her Work

An award-winning North Texas quilter is using her work to preserve her family's legacy.

February is Black History Month, and Barbara McCraw's quilts showcase her African-American heritage — plus much more.

"I think for me, quilting makes me go away from what's around me," said McCraw, as she worked in the studio of her Denton home. "I can't hear the dog barking, I can't hear the television. I'm just lost in my thoughts."

Those thoughts wander through McCraw's mind as she quilts, each stitch binding together a story.

"Yeah, and I'm just making this up as I go along," she laughed.

McCraw started quilting 22 years ago. Many of her quilts tell her family's story or highlight her African-American heritage.

"I thought now would be a good time to tell my story," she explained. "So my granddaughter and whatever grandchildren come along later can know who I was, who their family was, and be proud of that."

McCraw has been honored for her work, and ribbons hang on the walls of her studio. Most well-known is The Loving Quilt — based on the U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized interracial marriage in the 1960s. The quilt has been displayed at museums across the country, and is currently at a museum in Sacramento.

"It's a pleasure and a real honor to be able to take what's in my head, and put it on fabric and then have other people appreciate it," McGraw said.

The Loving Quilt story parallels McGraw's own story. When she met her husband, Ernie, who is white, mixed marriages were still illegal in 16 states. She recalls having to duck down while riding in his car through certain neighborhoods back then.

"With everything we've been through, I think it just made us grow closer together," she said.

Vibrant colors shine though in her work. McCraw says in quilting circles, there is no color — a lesson learned in the Denton ladies quilting group she belongs to — a group which readily welcomes her.

"They never saw what color I was," she said. "I never saw what color I was. Sometimes a light bulb goes off and I say, 'Oh, I'm the only black person in the room.' It doesn't make any difference."

McCraw feels her work does make a difference, lending esteem to those who come after her.

"To let them know where they came from, let them know who they are and that they can be proud," she said. "Because I'm certainly proud of who I am."

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