Sara Trail, and the non-profit organization she founded in 2017, the Social Justice Sewing Academy, has built on a long tradition of quilt artists who use quilts as part of their activist practices. Sara has been sewing and making quilts since she was a child, and transformed her work as a quiltmaker and fashion designer into that of community organizer. The Social Justice Sewing Academy has a mission to quote “empower individuals to utilize textile art for personal transformation, community cohesion, and to begin the journey toward becoming an agent of social change.”
Looking back to the nineteenth century, abolitionists, suffragists, and temperance activists all made quilts that espoused their beliefs, an essential outlet particularly during a time in which women could not vote or run for political office. Quilters continued this practice of using quilts in their activism into the twentieth century, projecting opinions and supporting causes, with Red Cross quilts, quilts celebrating New Deal programs, and quilts supporting political and social causes. Again in the late twentieth century, quilts emerged as a potent symbol of the feminist movement, along with loved ones who memorialized those who died of AIDS with quilt panels, and others who advocated against nuclear weapons, environmental destruction, and gun violence through their quilts. And quilts have remained an important means of communicating about racial injustice, a sad reminder that abolition, emancipation, and the civil rights movement have not in fact left us with a racially just society.