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Hystercine Rankin workiing on a quilt
After My Father's Funeral by Hystercine Rankin Hystercine Rankin signature on quilt

African-American quiltmaker Hystercine Rankin (1929–2010), who lived in Lorman, Mississippi, learned quilting from her grandmother at the age of twelve and started making quilts to keep her family warm. Mrs. Rankin was born in a log cabin. Her mother was a teacher and her father a farmer. When she was ten years old, her father was killed in a racially charged murder and the family moved in with her maternal grandparents. At the age of sixteen, she married Ezekiel Rankin. Four years later Mrs. Rankin's mother died of cancer, and she helped to raise her five younger brothers along with her own seven children.

In her later years, Mrs. Rankin taught others to quilt at Mississippi Cultural Crossroads in Port Gibson, Mississippi, and was a member of the Crossroads Quilters. She is best known for her memory quilts that chronicle her experiences of growing up in southwestern Mississippi.

She was recognized for her accomplishments in 1997 when the National Endowment of the Arts awarded her a National Heritage Fellowship. She also was honored as a Quilt Treasure by the Alliance for American Quilts, which features video interviews with Mrs. Rankin and other information about her, her work and her life. This quilt is featured as the pivotal piece in their presentation of Mrs. Rankin's life and work. In addition , she was interviewed and pictured in Roland L. Freeman's seminal book A Communion of the Spirits: African-American Quilters, Preservers, and Their Stories.

Mrs. Rankin's father was murdered by white men in 1939 when she was ten years old. She said she had gone to the pond to get her father water when four gunshots rang out. "I thought it was hunting," she said. She said the family never learned why her father had been killed, and no one was ever charged with the crime. "He stayed in the road until the log truck came and picked him up. Blacks were afraid to come to the funeral," she added.

Mrs. Rankin's moving memory quilt AFTER MY FATHER'S FUNERAL tells the story of how her life changed after that tragic event. The stitched text above the appliqué picture reads: " The day of my father Denver Gray's funeral was also the day we left Union Church. My Grandmother, Alice Whalem, moved us to the Blue Hill community To live with her father, Joe January,who was born a slave and later bought 100 acres of the land he was a slave on, and built a very large house there in 1890. He died in 1941 I moved in 1946, when I married Ezekiel Rankin, a staff sargent [sic] in the US Army. My Grandmother died in 1943 and my Mother Brothers And Sisters continued to live with my great uncle Lovie January My Mother Laula Gray died in 1950 of Cancer."

This quilt, which was purchased from Mrs. Rankin by quilt artist and collector Jonathan Shannon, is in nearly perfect original condition. The letter d in the word land has come out, but the impression of the letter remains.


For more information or to purchase this quilt, contact Robert Shaw

More quilts from the Shannon Collection

After My Father's Funeral by Hystercine Rankin

Toward Barred Island by Gayle Fraas and Duncan Slade (detail)

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Toward Barred Island by Gayle Fraas and Duncan Slade (detail)

Bottom left and right: Toward Barred Island (detail) by Gayle Fraas and Duncan Slade