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Lecture on African-American quilter at Kauffman Museum

September 11th, 2017

NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – As part of its participation in the grand opening of the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C., earlier this month, Kauffman Museum at Bethel College will host a lecture by a quilt historian and textile artist.

And the subject of the next Sunday-Afternoon-at-the-Museum event at Kauffman Museum – Maria Rogers Martin, a quilter who was born a slave – has a Newton connection.

Marla Jackson, Lawrence, is a storyteller, a historian, an educator and an artist who creates what she calls “visual narrative quilts.” She will present a public lecture, “From Slavery to a Free State: The Story of Maria Rogers Martin,” at the museum on the Bethel College campus, Oct. 9 at 3 p.m. The lecture is free and open to the public.

Kauffman Museum is hosting, through Oct. 9, a set of posters that give an overview of the Smithsonian’s newest museum, the National Museum of African American History and Culture. Kauffman Museum was one of only 67 public institutions chosen from thousands across the United States to host the poster exhibit in part based on the ability to plan and host related programming such as Jackson’s lecture.

She will tell the story of Martin, a quilter and former slave from Missouri who was brought to Lawrence in 1862.

Martin’s half-sister, Vina (Lou Vina) Anderson Cole, married to William H. Cole, lived in Newton from 1930 until her death in 1949. Vina Cole is buried in the Greenwood Cemetery in Newton.

In 2013, Jackson founded the African American Quilt Museum and Textile Academy, housed in an unassuming space in east Lawrence. There is a small quilt display, and Jackson works with students of various ages in quilting and textile art, and on quilt history projects.

Since 2012, Jackson and some of her students have been researching the story of Maria Rogers Martin, a slave on the Wayside Rest Plantation near Harrisonville, Missouri. Union soldiers under the command of Colonel Charles Jennison kidnapped Martin during a raid in 1862 and took her to Lawrence, where she served as a personal servant to Senator James Lane.

Martin returned to Harrisonville in 1900 to live with her son and died there in 1922 at the age of 91.

Jackson became interested in Martin’s story while doing research for a story quilt she created, “Still We Rise,” about Quantrill’s Raid. Jackson later received a grant to create “Turkey Red,” a series of quilts depicting Martin’s story.

Jackson is world renowned for her quilting artistry. Her works have been exhibited in more than 35 national and international venues, including the American Folk Art Museum and the National Museum of African American History and Culture. One of her most famous works is part of the permanent collection of the Smithsonian’s Anacostia Community Museum in Washington, D.C.

Jackson’s narrative quilts are inspired by oral histories of ancestors and by the Kansas region. She has been featured on PBS and in Ms. magazine, Threads of Faith, Speaking Out of Turn, the Kansas History Society Quarterly and other local and regional publications.

Jackson collaborated in her research for “From Slavery to a Free State: The Story of Maria Rogers Martin” with Judy Sweets as part of a Kansas Humanities Council (KHC) grant. The project included exploring sources at Kansas archives and libraries, and training area middle-school students to work as volunteers, learning to use historical research methods.

“KHC Heritage Grants encourage the preservation of local cultural resources,” said Julie Mulvihill, KHC executive director. “This project provides us with the opportunity to learn more about the early history of our state.”

The Kansas Humanities Council is a nonprofit organization that supports community-based cultural programs, serves as a financial resource through an active grant-making program, and encourages Kansans to engage in the civic and cultural life of their communities. For more information, visit

Regular Kauffman Museum hours are 9:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, and 1:30-4:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. The museum is closed Mondays and major holidays. Admission to the special exhibit “Memory Matters: Work of Gesine Janzen,” as well as the permanent exhibits “Of Land and People,” “Mirror of the Martyrs” and “Mennonite Immigrant Furniture,” is $4 for adults, $2 for children ages 6-16, and free to Kauffman Museum members and children under 6. For more information, call the museum at 316-283-1612 or visit its website,, or Facebook page.

About Bethel

As the first Mennonite college founded in North America, Bethel College celebrates a tradition of progressive Christian liberal arts education, diversity within community, and lifelong learning.