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The Quilted Conscience

Movie Poster

THE QUILTED CONSCIENCE is a 60-minute film showing the beautiful and important story of a group of sixteen Sudanese-American girls – refugees from the genocide in their troubled homeland – who are thrust into a new life in the town of Grand Island, Nebraska; of a quilter’s guild of local white women, some of whom have had little previous contact with ethnic or racial minorities; and of a famed African-American quilt-maker who travels a thousand miles to help “stitch” the two groups together by means of a “culture-blend” fabric-art project: the making of a beautiful wall-size mural, composed of dozens of dramatic story-panels created by the Sudanese girls with the help of the local women.

The subjects of the students’ quilt panels are Dreams & Memories – showing the girls’ memories of Africa and their dreams of America. The Memories are cultural memories, answering the question “What is unique in who I am and in where I come from?” These images honor the traditions and heritage of the students’ families and communities back in Sudan, showing what is best and most special to them in their African pasts. The Dreams are personal dreams of each student – some of them answering the question “Who and what do I want to be in life?” These images show the wonderful things that the girls will do in their American futures, with some students also creating “dream images” that offer a glimpse into their inner worlds and night-dreams, with subject matter ranging from hopes of being nurses and doctors to careers as lawyers or judges – and, in one impressive case, even of becoming a professional female football player. Read more (PDF)

Media Clips


The Quilted Conscience (Public Television teaser)

The Quilted Conscience (film-sampler)

Sewing hopes and dreams (TQC article)

TQC outreach event (video report)

Enriching America (TQC article)

Sudanese Student-Quilter (TQC portrait)

Sudanese Family (TQC portrait)

Peggie Hartwell exhibit (TQC portrait)

"Film Streams Discussion, 12/5/2011," KIOS 91.5 FM; the second half of this audio recording features Director John Sorensen in a Q&A about "The Quilted Conscience."

The Quilted Conscience Project

THE QUILTED CONSCIENCE PROJECT – including children’s workshops and documentary film – is a culture-exchange/arts-in-education program. The purpose of this program is to work with the E.L.A. (English Language Acquisition) Departments of public school systems to create, and then to share with the general public, a series of mural-size story-quilts on the subject of the Dreams & Memories of immigrant children living in the United States of America--while, at the same time, teaching basic sewing and quilting skills to the student-artists whose families are newly arrived to the U.S. from all over the world. The primary public awareness raising tool for the project is the film entitled "The Quilted Conscience," which is being prepared for broadcast on public television and for curriculum use in schools. This ongoing cultural and educational project is a tribute to the living legacy of one of America’s greatest social justice pioneers: Grand Island born-and-raised Grace Abbott, who devoted her life to working for the rights of the children and immigrants of our nation.

The Newcomers Quilt Project

2010 class

The 2010 Newcomers class and their quilt.

2012 Winning Quilt

The 2012 Newcomers class and their quilt

A "Quilted Conscience" Adventure

In the Newcomers Quilt Project, students who are newly arrived in Grand Island, Nebraska, from countries all over the world use the medium of fabric-art to quilt story-blocks that share special memories of their homelands and their dreams of America. The ongoing Project began with the class of 2010 and has continued with the class of 2011.

The 2010 quilt is called "Memories of Our Homeland" and is on permanent display at the Administration Offices of the Grand Island Public Schools.

Blue RibbonThe 2011 quilt is called "Memories of Our Homeland and Dreams of Our Future" and received a First-Place Blue Ribbon at the 2011 Nebraska State Fair.

Blue RibbonThe 2012 quilt [see photo right] received a Second-Place Red Ribbon at the 2012 Nebraska State Fair. It also received a special honor: a financial gift that will be used to purchase supplies for future Newcomers quilts.

The 2012 quilt features these "Memories of Our Homeland" story-blocks: "The Lions in Africa" (Somalia), "Parades" (Cuba), "The Big Horned Cattle" (Mexico), "New Year’s Eve" (Thailand and Burma), "Flowers from my Homeland" (Togo, Africa), "Horses" (Mexico), "Beach Parties" (Cuba), "Soccer with my Dad" (El Salvador), "Pelusin, My Dog" (Cuba), "Swimming in the Ocean" (Mexico), "Fun on the Beach" (Guatemala), "My Horse Named Lilarion" (Cuba), "Deer" (Nicaragua), "My Garden" (Nicaragua), "My Burro" (Mexico).

Blue RibbonCongratulations to Tracy Morrow and her Grand Island Newcomers class, who have triumphed once again: earning yet another Blue Ribbon at the 2013 Nebraska State Fair for this year's lovely Newcomers Quilt. 

Project Partners

- TRACY MORROW, E.L.L. teacher with the Grand Island Public Schools, is the educational leader of The Newcomers Quilt Project and was the key guide in bringing the Project to the G.I.P.S.
- KAY GRIMMINGER, quiltmaker and retired art teacher, assembled the student's quilt blocks, then constructed and quilted the piece.
- JOHN SORENSEN, Director of the Abbott Sisters Project, is the creative leader and overseeing guide for The Newcomers Quilt Project and all other Quilted Conscience Programs.

- Special thanks to the Grand Island Education Foundation for providing the grant monies to purchase materials for the Project.

About the Director: John Sorensen

John Sorensen

JOHN SORENSEN is the director and founder of the Abbott Sisters Project. He is the author of the books The Grace Abbott Reader (U. of Nebraska Press, 2008) and Grace Abbott: an Introduction (UNO, 2010) and is the creator of the Dreams & Memories Immigrant-Student Quilt Workshop project. His Abbott work has been the subject of segments on NETV’s Next Exit and Nebraska Stories series and many other TV, radio, web, magazine and newspaper features. He has presented a wide-range of Abbott programs for the New York Public Library, Chicago Public Radio, New York University, Columbia University, the University of Chicago, the University of Nebraska, the Chicago Humanities Festival, etc.

In addition, Mr. Sorensen is the founding director of the New York Public Library’s Four Corners world culture series and of the Jumble Shop Theater of Greenwich Village (for which he has directed productions of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Sophocles’ Electra, Ionesco’s The Chairs, Chekhov’s Swan Song, etc.). He was the assistant director of the Broadway plays Tru (Tony Award) and The Big Love and appeared as an actor in the ABC-TV series Hot House. His work for the U.S. Dept. of State includes two lecture tours in Romania. He has directed many films, including documentaries (The Andy Warhol Robot, Carnegie Museum) and dramatic works (Midsummer, NYPL), as well as radio specials such as “Aunt Willa” and the Menuhins (WFMT, Chicago) and the radio drama series, Theater of the Air (WNYU-FM, New York City).  He is currently completing work on The Quilted Conscience, a film concerning the Sudanese-American refugee children of the Abbott sisters’ (and his own) hometown of Grand Island, Nebraska.

Mr. Sorensen may be contacted at