Gladys-Marie Fry

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Gladys-Marie Fry
Born April 6, 1931
Washington, DC
Nationality American
Genre History of quilting

Gladys-Marie Fry (born April 6, 1931) is Professor Emerita of Folklore and English at the University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland, and a leading authority on African American textiles. She has written two books and numerous articles on the subject. She lives in Washington, DC.[1]


Fry’s father, Louis, was an eminent architect. He had earned a degree in architecture from Kansas State University and then worked with architect Albert Irving Cassell at Howard University, Washington, DC., marrying Obelia Swearingen in 1927.[2]

They had a son, Louis Jr. in 1928 (also an architect, who died in 2006). Gladys-Marie Fry was born in 1931 in the Freedmen's Hospital on the Howard University campus.[3]

She spent many years researching enslaved African culture with a special emphasis on the material artifacts of enslaved African women, while earning degrees in history and folklore at Howard University and at Indiana University.[4]

She was a Bunting Institute Fellow from 1988-1989 at Radcliffe College, Cambridge, MA, and retired from the University of Maryland, College Park in 2000.

Dr. Frye was a frequent lecturer at educational institutions in the United States and abroad. She curated a dozen exhibitions that have been hosted at major institutions. Among them are the Eva and Morris Feld Gallery of the Museum of American Folk Art at Lincoln Square in New York City, the Renwick Gallery and the Anacostia Museum of Art of the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., Huntsville Museum of Art, Huntsville, Alabama, Afro-American Museum of Art, Dallas, Texas, and the Art Gallery at the University of Maryland.[5]

Contributions to American Quilt History[edit]

In 1976, Dr. Fry published landmark research about American quiltmaker Harriet Powers’ life in Missing Pieces: Georgia Folk Art 1770-1976, an exhibit catalog. This was the first full-scale investigation about the life and Bible-themed quilts of Powers (an African American slave, folk artist and quilt maker from rural Georgia, whose surviving works are on display at the National Museum of American History in Washington, DC and the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, Massachusetts.) [6]

For her book Stitched from the Soul, she mailed 600 letters to museums in the early 1980s looking for "black folk survivals." Her search identified almost 150 previously unknown slave-made quilts (identified on museum accession cards of the time as "made by unknown darkey.") [7]

Fry was one of the early researchers to document African American men quilting. She curated the 1998 exhibit "Man Made: African-American Men and Quilting Traditions," which included quilts by enslaved Africans, Paul Buford,[8] Raymond Dobard,[9] David Driskell and eleven others.



  • Stitched from the Soul: Slave Quilts from the Ante-Bellum South, The University of North Carolina Press; (1989)
  • Night Riders in Black Folk History, The University of North Carolina Press, (1975)

Exhibit Catalogs & Quilt-related Essays[edit]

  • Broken Star: Post Civil War Quilts Made by Black Women, Museum of African-American Life and Culture, Dallas, TX, 1986
  • Harriet Powers: Portrait of a Black Quilter. In Missing Pieces: Georgia Folk Art 1770-1976, pp. 16–23, 1976.
  • Made By Hand. In Mississippi Folk Arts, Mississippi State Historical Museum, 1980
  • Man Made: African American Men and Quilting Traditions. Anacostia Museum and Center for African American History and Culture, Washington, D.C., 1998.
  • Militant Needles: An Exhibit of Slave Made Quilts, National Afro-American Museum Project, Columbus, OH, 1984.
  • Not by Rules, But by the Heart: The Quilts of Clementine Hunter. In Clementine Hunter, an American Folk Artist. Museum of African-American Life and Culture, Dallas, TX, 1993.[10]


Fry co-founded the Association of African and African-American Folklorists, and is a member of the American Folklore Society.[11]


John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowships to Assist Research and Artistic Creation: 1995: US & Canada Competition Humanities - Folklore & Popular Culture [12]

External References[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^ Missouri Marriage Records. Jefferson City, MO, USA: Missouri State Archives. 1927. Microfilm.
  3. ^ Louis Edwin Fry K-State Libraries, Delta Chapter
  4. ^ From the African Loom to the American Quilt, GLADYS-MARIE FRY The Fortnightly, Feb 8, 1999
  5. ^ The Quilt Professor, ZoomInfo
  6. ^ A Sermon in Patchwork UC Press E-Books Collection, 1982-2004
  7. ^ "Folklorist Stitches Together History of Black Quiltmaking," Carleton Jones, Baltimore Sun, 1/18/1989
  8. ^ Paul Buford, African American Visual Arts Database
  9. ^ Raymond Dobard, African American Visual Arts Database
  10. ^ “Quilts and Quiltmaking in Black America. Fisk University, Nashville, TN, n.d., Black Threads by Kyra E. Hicks, p. 40.)
  11. ^ A Sermon in Patchwork UC Press E-Books Collection, 1982-2004
  12. ^