“Black Pioneers: Legacy in the American West” is open now at St. Petersburg’s James Museum, located at 150 Central Ave., and up through Jan. 8, 2022.
Created by the Women of Color Quilters Network, the special exhibition highlights a largely untold part of history with a timeline of pictorial quilts spanning from the early-1500s to present day.
The exhibition is meant to dispel the notion that all Black people in the West were cowboys. Instead, “Black Pioneers” explores the rich diversity in occupations and achievements in society. Mazloomi told Creative Loafing the exhibition will act as a history lesson.
“When people come away from the show, hopefully they would have learned something about African American history and learn the importance of the contributions many of them made that migrated to the West,” Mazloomi said.
All 50 of the intricately designed quilts display an event or individual central to the theme.
One quilt features Esteban de Dorantes, the first Black person recorded to have explored the West. Another tells the story of Mary Ellen Pleasant, an indentured servant who amassed a fortune during the Gold Rush that she used to provide transportation, food and housing to others.