JEFFERSON — The Collins Academy of Jefferson hosted its first ever public event for students in its historic, restored Union Missionary Baptist Church this week when the Pleasant Hill Quilting Club of Linden came to make a presentation to students.

Quilters from the Pleasant Hill Quilting Club demonstrated hidden codes and signs within slave made quilts before Emancipation during a demonstration Saturday to Jefferson ISD and Queen City ISD students at the church in recognition of February as Black History Month.

The 12 members of the quilting club took turns pointing out how different designs and symbols hidden within the patterns of the slave made quilts directed slaves toward escape and freedom via the Underground Railroad.

The group also sang hymns and ballads that slaves sang during their time to also direct one another toward escape and freedom.

“Each song had a hidden meaning and directions on how to escape,” quilting member LaWanda Warren said..

“Wade in the water, get yourself down to the river, wade in the water,” Warren sang as an example. “When the railroad opened up, there was a faster means of coded transportation. The word ‘chariot’ would get replaced with the word ‘train.’”

The Collins Academy, which partners with area public schools, private schools and home school students to offer educational experiences centered on history, culture and the environment, intended for the church to be used for educational purposes such as this when it undertook the task of restoring the historical black church.

“This was our first student presentation here in conjunction with Black History Month and we plan many more events such as this going forward,” Collins Academy Director Gary Endsley said. “This is an example of the kind of events we plan to present here, events centered on education with religious and cultural overtones. This is about community betterment and we look forward to many more.“

The historic black church, built in 1883, underwent about a $1 million restoration project, headed by Dick Collins, owner of the Collins Academy, and officially opened in November during an invitation only grand opening that featured guests such as the Wiley College choir and founding members and relatives of the church.