While studying objects in a textile collection, Rachel May found a treasure-trove: a carefully folded, unfinished quilt made of 1830s-era fabrics, its backing containing fragile, aged papers with the dates 1798, 1808, and 1813, the words "shuger," "rum," "casks," and "West Indies," repeated over and over, along with "friendship," "kindness," "government," and "incident." The quilt top sent her on a journey spanning New England and the Caribbean to piece together the story of Minerva, Eliza, Jane, and Juba—the enslaved women behind the quilt—and their owner, Susan Crouch.
"May draws both history lessons and intimate secrets from her analysis of letters and domestic objects in the antebellum world. Her commitment to recovering the experiences of the enslaved people at the story's heart is admirable."—Publishers Weekly