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“A SERMON IN PATCHWORK”
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THE FINCH INTERVIEW AND ITS LIMITATIONS

Finch's article on Harriet Powers in Outlook shows Finch to have been a southern-bred woman of her time—more than a little patronizing about the mental and emotional qualities of African Americans. The article begins with a general regret that “‘the old timey’ Negro”—in other words, the former slave—was disappearing. The author takes Powers to be a good example of such a “Negro” and adopts the liberties one might expect. She does not give the circumstances of the interview, the background of the subject, or a physical description of her. Lucine Finch never identifies Powers by name, referring to her simply as an “aged Negro woman,” and she sees the quilt, not as a work of art, but only as the “reverent, worshipful embodiment of an old colored woman's soul.” Undoubtedly, the maker's reverence and worshipfulness are part of the quilt's power, but much that Finch takes for granted looks like artful camouflage on the quilter's part. What the white interviewer sees, for instance, as unintentional humor is, to the modern onlooker, a quality of whimsy consciously built into the work. Indeed, throughout the article, the reader is aware of many hesitancies and quiet evasions in Powers's words and expressions that the writer misses entirely.


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“A SERMON IN PATCHWORK”
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