The Power of Dreams-Martha Ann Ricks-From Slavery to Windsor Castle

Martha Ann Ricks
Martha Ann Ricks | Source


This lady was determination personified. She was born a slave in Tennessee about 1817 (her birth year is not recorded but estimated by piecing together other data), the daughter of slaves. Her father was George Erskine and her mother’s name was Hagar which I find prophetic. The Bible story of Hagar shows a strong lady who suffered much heartache and traveled many lands.

Martha Ann’s father was a man who loved God and in his free time attended church regularly, learning all he could about the Bible and the Lord. Since slaves were not allowed to read and write, his only option was to learn from listening to others. Somehow he indeed learned to read and write well enough to study the Bible.

The dedication of George Erskine was noticed by two theologians who decided to purchase him and they did just that. But their intent was not to perpetuate the practice of slavery. They were opposed to slavery and wanted to help George learn and study religion. He was diligent in his studies and became an ordained minister in 1818 when he was 39 years old.

Dr. Erskine determined that his seven children would not live and die in the fields as slaves. He worked and saved every penny so he could buy his family’s freedom, securing the funds in an old red box. As he went throughout Tennessee preaching at black churches and the few white ones that allowed him to enter, he told of his desire to free his wife and children. The congregations sometimes took up collections to assist with the money he needed. Finally he had saved $2,400 and purchased his own family, ensuring their safety and family unity.

During his travels, George Erskine heard about a radical new movement whose mission was to return former slaves back to Africa. This was the American Colonization Society, who sometimes bought slaves just to free them and return them to their homeland. Records show that over 19,000 black people were repatriated to Liberia through the efforts of this organization. These include freeborn, manumitted, and victims recaptured from slaving ships that had kidnapped them from their homes. George made contact with the ACS who helped him make plans and in 1830, he was able to leave America and take his family to Liberia.

Martha Ann quickly settled into her new life in Liberia and felt secure because she watched British ships patrolling the coastline to prevent slavers from stealing people and taking them to America. Queen Victoria had ordered the ships to remain there and watch out for the people who lived near the coastline. So Martha went about her business in the market and became a homemaker, wife to Zion Harris who may have come with the family from America.

Martha Ann’s mother, father, grandmother and sister died from a fever that swept through the country, devastating many families. But she was still comforted by the knowledge that she was not a slave and she knew Queen Victoria was instrumental in maintaining that freedom. She saw a picture of the Queen in a newspaper and determined to thank her personally.

So, like her father, Martha Ann began to save money. A trip to England would cost a lot of money and she had almost none. But Martha Ann was a wonderful seamstress and quilter, having learned the art from her mother. She made and sold socks and other items. Martha also taught at the mission along with her husband. One time native tribesmen attacked the mission and Martha reloaded the guns while the men fought off the attackers. The leader was killed and the renegades scattered, never to return.

Later, Zion died and Martha was alone for a long time until she met and married Henry Ricks who owned a farm where he raised coffee, ginger and cotton. Martha worked hard, raising and selling animals as well as fine silk stockings and other items she sewed. All along, she saved pennies so she could go to England and meet the Queen.

After learning that every visitor was expected to present the Queen with a gift, Martha decided to make a quilt. She got an idea for the design by looking at the coffee fields outside her door. It showed a coffee tree in full bloom, featuring over 300 embroidered leaves and dozens of red coffee berries situated above a tree trunk. Martha worked on the quilt for twenty five years!

The years passed slowly but Martha never gave up her dream. She faithfully prayed for God to help her and to give her ideas to generate the necessary money she needed for her trip to England. She believed that God was inspiring her to make the journey. Though her husband, friends and family laughed and made fun of her dream, Martha remained strong and focused. She considered Queen Victoria to be a friend and protector of blacks, one who worked to prevent and abolish slavery in America and throughout the world.

Martha Ann became an old lady who was once again a widow when another widow made her acquaintance. This was Mrs. Jane Roberts whose husband had been the first President of Liberia! She had heard about Martha Ann’s quilt and wanted to see it. Once she heard the story and Martha’s lifelong dream, she helped make it a reality.

Mrs. Roberts had political connections in Liberia and in England and the right people received correspondence. A formal invitation was issued from the royal palace requesting the former slave woman to attend the Queen of England. Martha Ann sailed to England and was given a private tour of Windsor Castle, then was presented at court on July 16, 1892. She was 76 years old and had saved pennies for more than 50 years to make the dream come true.

Martha Ann actually shook hands with Queen Victoria and they had a long conversation. Then the quilt was unfolded and presented for the Queen’s inspection. She loved it and appreciated it even more because she herself was an excellent knitter and embroidery expert.

The Queen was so taken by Martha Ann Ricks that she sent a Royal Escort to see her safely back in Liberia. Many of the people who laughed at Martha’s dream were waiting at the dock to cheer her when she returned. They were no longer laughing.


Source

Interesting Facts


  • Martha Ann Rick's needlework was mentioned at the Second National Fair of Monrovia in 1858
  • Martha's Coffee Tree quilt was exhibited at the Chicago Illinois Columbian Exposition Fair in 1893.
  • A second quilt was made by Martha and gifted to AME Bishop Henry McNeal Turner, the first black army chaplain and appointed by President Abraham Lincoln.
  • The second quilt was on display at the Atlanta Cotton States and International Exposition in the Negro building in 1895.
  • Booker T. Washington was at the fair and likely saw the quilt.
  • The original quilt has been misplaced and cannot be located.

A Replica of Martha Ann's Quilt

Replica of Martha's quilt.
Replica of Martha's quilt. | Source

A Book About Martha Ann by Kyra Hicks

More by this Author


Comments 62 comments

mollymeadows profile image

mollymeadows 4 years ago from The Shire

Hyph, this is fascinating. I had never heard of repatriation in this context. What a life this woman had! I love the last photo; you can just feel her joy. What's that old verse -- "a desire fulfilled is a tree of life." Or in this case, of coffee -- lol! Up and buttons!


writer20 profile image

writer20 4 years ago from Southern Nevada

You have written such a wonderful hub. I'm happy she got to meet tubby Queen Victoria. What a great lady Martha was, saving every penny to do what she promised her-self.

I think we can all learn a little by saving to do something you've always wanted to do. Even if takes years.

Voted up awesome and beautiful


always exploring profile image

always exploring 4 years ago from Southern Illinois

Hyphen, This is a magnificent story! I didn't know that England was against slavery. Martha was a strong woman who never gave up her dream, the hardships she must have endured just to save pennys. I am so glad you are writing stories about slavery. I feel shame for our country. How could anyone ever think slavery was ok? Thank you for sharing...


editorsupremo profile image

editorsupremo 4 years ago from London, England

What an interesting story so eloquently told by you Hyphenbird. It just goes to show if you believe feverently enough your dreams can become a reality. I am inspired.


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 4 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful Author

mollymeadows, that old saying is very appropriate in this case. Martha and he father both were extraordinary. When I think how he had to purchase his own family, my heart just aches. I believe the American Colonization Society deserves a Hub of its own. I might get on that tomorrow. Everyone should know about this but most of us never have. It should be in the history books at schools.

I am so pleased you learned and were inspired by Martha's dream. I sure am. Thank you so much.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 4 years ago from Taos, NM

What an inspiring story and interesting person. The British were eons ahead of America when it came to freeing their slaves. And they did it without a civil war.


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 4 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful Author

Hello writer20. I wonder how many of us would give up after 50 years. But Martha never did and I find that so awesome. She knew this was a God thing and He was doing this for her as a gift. She probably remembered it on her deathbed. I know I would. Thank you for the votes and for reading this Hub about this lovely lady.


Alastar Packer profile image

Alastar Packer 4 years ago from North Carolina

How fortuitous That Martha met Mrs. Roberts who facilitated her dream. They stopped laughing alright. Another fascinating story on a remarkable individual Hyph. Liberia is quite a story in itself and its always interesting to read more about it. Martha was a needlework master and her story is truly uplifting. Yes, even inspiring. Very deserving up vote awesome and interesting.


Faith Reaper profile image

Faith Reaper 4 years ago from southern USA

What an inspiring story. Really great work here, and the pictures are awesome. Thank you for all the hard work and research you put into this hub, as it really shows. Love the quilt. Voted Up across the board. In His Love, Faith Reaper


Lynn S. Murphy 4 years ago

Your captivating writing brought a beautiful inspiring story to life. What an amazing, faithful and beautiful woman.


lilyfly profile image

lilyfly 4 years ago from Wasilla, Alaska

Isn't she exactly what the bible depicts as the worthy woman?Her family is clothed in Purple and scarlet, she goes to sell cloth at the gate, she rises early, and blesses her household, she buys land- ( I am paraphrasing), but it is in Psalms or Proverbs, and this is a lovely, uplifting story, wonderful! Thank you lovey, lily


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 4 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful Author

always exploring, she sure was strong and faithful to make her dream come true. It is odd because these stories find me. I do not go searching for them so I just retell them as the Holy Spirit directs. This one about Martha really touches my heartstrings. I do not believe people ever then or now truly thought slavery was okay. Deep in the spirit, they knew/know it is abominable. Some people just choose to do the wrong thing and cause unspeakable suffering. But those of us who choose to live in love and compassion help right the wrong and salve the pain. Your comments mean so much to me and I thank you very much my friend.


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 4 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful Author

Hello editorsupremo. I also am inspired and encouraged by Mrs. Ricks. Though she has been gone over a century, she is a mentor to me. I am so glad you found this Hub and thank you for the lovely comment.


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 4 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful Author

Hi suzettenaples. England's stand is worth a Hub of its own. I find it wonderful in any regard that Queen Victoria sent ships to protect the people of Liberia from being stolen from their homeland. Martha Ann Ricks must have been awed when those huge sails fluttered in the wind. And here we are all these years later, learning about her dream and making our won! Thank you for reading about this lovely lady. I appreciate your visit.


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 4 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful Author

Alastar, I thought about the situation in Liberia as I was writing this Hub. Martha Ann Ricks would be appalled and saddened. She sure was a great lady and has become a mentor for me. May we all overcome adversity and hold onto our dreams like she did! Thanks for your visit.


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 4 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful Author

Hi Faith Reaper. I do appreciate you noticing the research and hard work. I held on to this story for a while as I researched her life. Then the Holy Spirit just led me as He does in most of my writings. So much history is lost of deliberately hidden and I feel we must keep these people alive in writings. Slavery was such a horror in America and encompasses so much more than what children are taught in Civil War history.

Thanks for coming by to learn about Martha Ann Ricks. Please share her story with others.


mckbirdbks profile image

mckbirdbks 4 years ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

Hyphen, you always put together such interesting hubs. You portray these women in history with such passion. Among your other many talents you are a historian.


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 4 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful Author

Thank you Lynn S. Murphy. I felt her story deserved to be known. We can learn so much from this wonderful lady. I am so pleased you read about her.


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 4 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful Author

Hello dear Lily. That is in Proverbs 31. I long to be that kind of woman and diligently work to achieve such a standard. I am glad yo came by to read about Martha. She is indeed an inspiration for us all.


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 4 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful Author

Mckbirdbks, you are so kind. Thank you. This one was a labor of love for me.


kashmir56 profile image

kashmir56 4 years ago from Massachusetts

Hi Hyphenbird,WOW what an amazing and interesting story ! Martha's faith in God helped her to keep focused on her dream till it was for filled . I enjoyed reading this uplifting and beautiful hub !

Vote up and more !!! SHARING !


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 4 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful Author

Kashmir56, we all need to practice faith like that. I am so pleased you enjoyed learning about Martha, her dream and her faith. My heart filled with joy when I first heard her story. Thank you for your great comments.


North Wind profile image

North Wind 4 years ago from The World (for now)

Thanks for doing the research and bringing this information to HubPages, Hyphenbird. This is an incredible story. It is one that definitely shows God's hand in things.


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 4 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful Author

North Wind, it was my pleasure. These things need to be remembered for many reasons. I find it so cool that God made her dream come true in His own time. The perfect time. Thank you for your visit.


teaches12345 profile image

teaches12345 4 years ago

What a great piece of history! Martha overcame life's trials well and was a great inspiration to many. Her quilt pictured is simple but yet beautiful. Thanks for sharing how faith in God can help one to reach goals beyond their dreams.


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 4 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful Author

Hi teaches12345. She certainly was an amazing lady. I look forward to meeting her in Heaven one day. Most of us cannot think of meeting the Queen and she had been a slave! Just to conceive that notion is admirable. I also love her quilt and would like to make one. I don't think there would be a copyright issue so I just might! Thank you for coming to read about Martha and her dreams. God is faithful when we are faithful, isn't He?


HattieMattieMae profile image

HattieMattieMae 4 years ago from Limburg, Netherlands

Always love those kind of stories! :)


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 4 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful Author

Hello HattieMattieMae. I do too. They are so inspiring and I rejoice to know people were redeemed from dire straits and lived happy, fulfilling lives. Thanks for reading about Martha.


HattieMattieMae profile image

HattieMattieMae 4 years ago from Limburg, Netherlands

YW Hyphenbird! :)


stars439 profile image

stars439 4 years ago from Louisiana, The Magnolia and Pelican State.

Very interesting, and fascinating hub. God Bless You.


Rosemay50 profile image

Rosemay50 4 years ago from Hawkes Bay - NewZealand

This is an incredible and fascinating story Hyphen. Just shows what a person can achieve if they put their hearts into it.

You did a wonderful job


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 4 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful Author

Hello stars439. I am so glad you enjoyed it. Martha was an extraordinary woman but we all can do these things with faith and determination. Thanks for coming by and have a great day.


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 4 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful Author

You are so right Rosemay50. I also was fascinated by Martha and her story. She deserves recognition. Thanks for coming by and for your great encouragement.


RTalloni profile image

RTalloni 4 years ago from the short journey

Such a nice read you've given us, retelling Martha Ann RIcks' story in a sweeping fashion that weaves her dreams and realities together in an easy to view tapestry, leaving us satisfied that her goal was realized is spite of many hardships. I was so glad to see the quilt replica at the end!


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 4 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful Author

RTalloni, she sure was a lovely lady.When I think of the hardships and adversity she endured, my admiration grows. If a former slave in those times, could meet the queen of England, we surely can achieve our own dreams. I am so pleased that you enjoyed her story. Thank you so much for reading the Hub and letting me know she touched you also.


MartieCoetser profile image

MartieCoetser 4 years ago from South Africa

Interesting, inspiring and well-written. Thank you, Hyphenbird, for introducing Martha Ann Ricks to us. Women like she should never be forgotten.


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 4 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful Author

Hi Martie. I so agree. Peke this must be lifted up forever. Our history books neglect people like Martha and should be filled with them. I do appreciate you coming by and leaving your great comments.


Becky Katz profile image

Becky Katz 4 years ago from Hereford, AZ

Wonderfully told story of what can be achieved by a determined woman. She was a beautiful soul.


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 4 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful Author

She sure was Becky. That is a great description of Martha. I am glad you enjoyed her story. Thanks for the visit.


Frank Atanacio profile image

Frank Atanacio 4 years ago from Shelton

Wow H.. this historical piece stands out like Wiki-pedia.. thank you for the share I love reading these types of hubs bless you


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 4 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful Author

Hello Frank. It is so nice to see you. wonder if there is a Wiki article about Martha? I shall check and see. I also love these historical pieces and think these people deserve to be remembered. I am glad you liked it. Thank you so much. Hyph


RunAbstract profile image

RunAbstract 4 years ago from USA

A beautiful and moving, well written story about hope, determination, overcoming many hardships, and realization of long held dreams! Thank you so much!

Vote up and more!


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 4 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful Author

Hello RunAbstract. I appreciate your encouragement very much. I just loved this story of Martha Ann Ricks and knew other people would also. I am glad you came by to read about this lovely lady and thank you for your visit and comments.


Olumuyiwa 4 years ago

Hyph, I really want you to know that your write-up on Martha Ann Ricks is such a wonderful story, and also an inspiration to many of us now, who are determined to accomplish their lifelong dreams! Martha's life story and activity really touched me.

Honrstly, really a wonderful read for all times!


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 4 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful Author

Olumuyiwa, I am so happy you liked it. She is an inspiration to me and I wanted others to know about her. I am teaching her story to my little boy and suggesting it to the local school. Thank you so much for your great and encouraging comments. I appreciate them because it helps me to know this type of story is beneficial to others. Have a great day. HB


annart profile image

annart 4 years ago from SW England

Voted up, interesting & shared. What a great story Hyphenbird! Martha certainly was a plucky woman and an inspiration to us all - we think life is hard sometimes when really it's not when you consider what times were like for slaves. We have no idea! Thanks for sharing this.


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 4 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful Author

Annart, she was incredible. I would love to have a conversation with Martha. Yes, we often feel sorry for ourselves but most of us will never know what trials and tribulations are truly like. This lady did. I am so glad her story was an inspiration to you. Thank you for coming by to read about Martha and her dream.


sarahmoose profile image

sarahmoose 4 years ago from Nottingham, England

An amazing insight into a wonderful historical story. This woman never gave up, and eventually her dream came true. Thanks so much for this inspirational piece!


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 4 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful Author

sarahmoose, she was such an interesting lady. This proves that we must hang on to our dreams and work hard. They can and will come true. I am so glad you found her story inspiring. Thank you.


leahlefler profile image

leahlefler 4 years ago from Western New York

Wow - the story is amazing and the quilt is so beautiful! I had never heard about Martha before, what a great hub!


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 4 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful Author

Leahlefler, she is amazing. Her story will follow me for the rest of my life and I want my grandchildren to know about Martha Ann Ricks. She is indeed inspiring. I am so pleased you found this Hub and read about her. Thank you.


tamarawilhite profile image

tamarawilhite 4 years ago from Fort Worth, Texas

It's fascinating that both women involved managed to live long enough to meet, despite the decades that it took.


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 4 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful Author

tamarawilhite, I agree. These two ladies had something to offer each other. I wish I had been there to see this meeting. Thanks for reading about Martha.


A.A. Zavala profile image

A.A. Zavala 4 years ago from Texas

Such a fascinating story about an interesting figure in history. We should hear about this stories more often. Thank you hyphy for sharing.


lindalou1963 profile image

lindalou1963 4 years ago from Texas

A very touching story! I thoroughly enjoyed reading this, thank you for sharing!


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 4 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful Author

Hello A.A. It is so great to see you here. I agree with you. Stories like this should be widely known and in history books. Yet, they are largely forgotten and considered unimportant. This lady sure inspires me to follow my dreams. Thanks for the visit to this Hub. It is a favorite of mine.

**lindalou1963, I am so pleased you found this story. Thank you for the visit and the great comments. Martha sure was a lovely lady.


Kyra Hicks 4 years ago

Ms. Barnes,

Hello - Can you please share the sources you used for this article? I spent several years researching primary sources and worked with several historians and researchers to piece together story of Martha Ricks. I've published a book titled "Martha Ann's Quilt for Queen Victoria" in 2007 as well as received a fellowship for a 2004 online published article titled " Martha Erskine Ricks: 19th Century Quiltmaker" that is available from the Anyone Can Fly Foundation.

Many of the phrases and the timeline of this article here seem to mirror my own published and copyrighted work - without any attributions to the source materials for the essay here. Even the quilt photograph in this essay is inspired by the "Martha Ann's Quilt for Queen Victoria" book.

Mrs. Ricks' story is inspiring! Can you please clarify the sources used for the essay above? Thank you.


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 4 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful Author

Hello Kyra Hicks. I assure you I have not violated your copyright. I ran across the story of Martha Ann Ricks and sought information all over the internet. I found a lot of information that seemed to be piecemeal and discarded those as certain facts repeated themselves and felt true to me. I remember one source was the University of Virginia on the page about Virginia Emigrants to Liberia. Another was Black Threads and the quilt image shows due acknowledgement to Storybook Quilts. As far as phrases sounding alike, I can only say I write my own words and copy no one else. This website (HubPages) is very strict on duplicate content and any duplication would have been flagged as such had I copied from you. I also run a lot of my articles and even poems through Copyscape to avoid ever unknowingly quoting someone else word for word. I agree that Mrs. Ricks' story is inspiring and a message that we all can benefit from. That is why I wanted to share it with as many people as possible. I will visit the Everyone Can Fly Foundation and with permission would like to link it to this article but shall wait to hear back from you before doing so. Thank you so much.


kyra hicks 4 years ago

Hello - Yes, please do give me credit as this essay here follows the Anyone Can Fly essay on Martha Ricks that I wrote. I also published the children's book, Martha Ann's Quilt for Queen Victoria - which is not cited here.

http://www.amazon.com/Martha-Anns-Quilt-Queen-Vict...

I am also the blogger for Black Threads , an African American quilt history blog.

Thank you - Kyra


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 4 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful Author

Hello Krya. I will add your link to your book. I think it sounds exciting and believe children will find it educational. Thank you for the link. I did not cite it before because I did not use or mention it in my article. I am happy to place the Amazon link to the book. I want people to know as much about this determined and brave lady as possible. I will look for Black Threads and give you a link there also. Thanks, Brenda.


Anita Hasch profile image

Anita Hasch 3 weeks ago from Port Elizabeth

What an inspiring story Brenda. It's so true that if we believe and focus we can achieve. Years ago when I bought our first property with no money, I was laughed at as well. I spent one year meeting agents and looking at houses although I knew I had no money to buy. Then I met a wonderful agent who showed me a way.


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 2 weeks ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful Author

Hello Anita. Thank you for sharing that inspiring testimony. Faith certainly is never in vain.

    Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.


    Click to Rate This Article
    working