Slave Ship Henrietta Marie

April, 2019

Slave Ship Henrietta Marie

Michael Cummings
large quilt depicting Slave Ship Henrietta Marie

2006
New York City
120 x 56 inches
2018.077.0001

Michael Cummings, a native of Los Angeles, California, who now lives in New York, has worked as a quiltmaker for the past 30 years. He lives and works in a 100-year-old Harlem brownstone he bought in the 1980s. He uses appliqué to collage fabrics and tactile objects to his quilt tops. Embellishments enhance the narrative themes of each quilt, and textile pigments add a painterly quality to the surfaces of his work. Cummings chooses his subjects intuitively, inspired by personal experience, history, travel, and music.

"Slave Ship Henrietta Marie" is a large depiction of a ship of the same name. The ship carried captive Africans to the Carribean, where they were eventually sold into slavery. On a return trip to England, the ship sank off the coast of Florida. Captives are not believed to have been on board at the time. The wreckage was found in 1972, with more than 1,000 objects recovered. The National Association of Black Scuba Divers later placed a memorial plaque on the site with the epitaph, "In memory and recognition of the courage, pain and suffering of enslaved African people. Speak her name and gently touch the souls of our ancestors." 

"Slave Ship Henrietta Marie" previously appeared in the 2012 exhibition "SAQA Showcase: The Studio Art Quilt Associates Invitational." It became part of the museum's permanent collection in 2018. In his review of the exhibition, Lincoln Journal Star reviewer L. Kent Wolgamott wrote, "'Slave Ship Henrietta Marie' is a powerful, monumental artwork.'

"A wall-sized depiction of a slave ship, which harkens back to old drawings that arrange the slaves in flat rows in an outline of the hull, it pulls in the viewer through its subject matter, scale and craftsmanship."

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