Mentoring, Arts and Crafts for Your Child
According to the Smithsonian, “Two hundred years ago, an African American girl made history—literally. She was an indentured servant named Grace Wisher in the household of Mary Pickersgill.” Grace was the daughter of a mother too poor to support her children. She placed Grace, at age 10, in an apprenticeship with Mary. In return for teaching Grace a trade, Mary gained a servant for six years.
Mary became famous for having made the flag that inspired the song, The Star Spangled Banner, by Francis Scott Key and Grace was one of the people that helped Mary sew the flag.
In addition to Grace, there was an African American slave women who also helped sew the flag. The fact that Mary was aided by two African Americans has only come to light in recent history. In the past, none of Mary’s flag making team received any credit for making the famous flag, but since their contribution has come to light, it would be inaccurate to tell this story without Grace or the slave woman who also resided with Mary.
Major General George Armistead commissioned Mary to make a flag measuring 30 by 42 feet with 15 stars and 15 stripes (each star and stripe representing a state), that’s a flag that is as big as a three-story building, a size that impresses even now. It was indeed a large flag, and Armistead wanted it as soon as possible. With these instructions, Mary called in all the help she could. Mary was joined by her elderly mother, three nieces, the unknown slave woman and little Grace. It took them six weeks to finish the flag. The flag has been restored by conservators at the Smithsonian, and it now hangs in the American History Museum in Washington, D.C. where you can see it today.
The home where Mary and Grace lived is now a museum called the Star-Spangled Banner Flag House in Baltimore, Maryland.
Grace Wisher’s Flag
- Felt (red, green & black)
- Large black felt piece (1 yard at 60″)
- 36 by 30 inch piece of cardboard.
- Glue (hot glue or white glue)
Wrap the 30 x 36 inch black felt around the cardboard.
- Secure it with glue on one side of the cardboard. That will be the backside of your felt board. Prop it up and put it away for now to dry.
- Cut out a small rectangle with the green felt.
- Cut out 3 long stripes and 2 short stripes with the red felt.
- Cut out 5-8 (or however many you want) stars using the black felt, like this:
- Draw a star on a piece of paper and cut it out.
- Pin it onto the black felt and cut around it.
- You can even do two layers at once if you have good scissors.
- Put the flag together on your black felt board that you made earlier leaving space so the black felt can fill in for the missing strips. Put it together once or twice with your child so they can see what it’s supposed to look like. NO GLUE is necessary, it will stick to the felt without glue. Then let your child do it all on their own! Have fun taking it apart and putting it back together again. If you want a permanent flag, then by all means use glue! You can also use bigger strips and make the Pan-African flag on the right below.
(Source: Activity adapted from LittleFamilyFun.com)
Artist David Hammons’ created the African American Flag (left) in 1990, which is a part of the permanent collection of New York’s Museum of Modern Art. The Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League (UNIA-ACL) created the Pan-African flag (right) with the wide bands of red, black and green in 1920. The color red represents “the blood that unites all people of Black African ancestry, and shed for liberation.” The color black is for “the people whose existence as a nation, though not a nation-state, is affirmed by the existence of the flag,” and the color green is for the land and “the abundant natural wealth of Africa.”