Gee’s Bend Alabama

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African American Family at Gee's Bend Alabama 1937

African American Family at Gee's Bend Alabama 1937

Gee’s Bend Alabama

In this 1937 image by Farm Security Administration photographer Arthur Rothstein, Gee's Bend quilter Jorena Pettway sews a quilt as two young girls hold the fabric for her. Courtesy of Library of Congress, photograph by Arthur Rothstein.

In this 1937 image by Farm Security Administration photographer Arthur Rothstein, Gee’s Bend quilter Jorena Pettway sews a quilt as two young girls hold the fabric for her. Courtesy of Library of Congress, photograph by Arthur Rothstein.

Known officially since 1949 as the town of Boykin, the community of Gee’s Bend is situated in Wilcox County in the west Alabama Black Belt. Today, approximately 750 people, mostly descendants of enslaved African Americans, live in the community on the banks of the Alabama River.

Joseph Gee, a large landowner from Halifax County in North Carolina, settled in 1816 on the north side of a large bend in the Alabama River near what would become the northeastern border of Wilcox County. Gee was the first recorded white resident to live in the area. Upon his death in 1824, he left 47 black slaves. Two of his North Carolina nephews, Sterling and Charles Gee, came to Alabama in the hopes of inheriting his estate. During the legal maneuverings, Sterling inherited a family estate back home and returned to live there. Charles became manager of the Gee’s Bend plantation. 

Since the 1960s, Gee’s Bend has gained significant national attention from the quilts produced by women in the community,

The descendants of slaves and sharecroppers still populate Gee’s Bend today, but the lack of jobs and infrastructure has burdened the community with the same crippling poverty found across much of the Black Belt.

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