Creativity and Crisis

Quilt History

The Inspiration

In 1985, the initial idea for The AIDS Memorial Quilt came to Cleve Jones, one of the organizers of the annual candlelight march in memory of San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone, both assassinated in 1978. To honor also the more than one thousand San Franciscans lost to AIDS, Jones asked fellow marchers to inscribe the names of their departed friends and loved ones on the placards they carried. For the first time, numbers became NAMES. At the end of the march, Jones and other participants taped the placards to the walls of the San Francisco Federal Building. It was this action—the creation of a wall of names and its graphic resemblance to a patchwork quilt—that inspired The AIDS Memorial Quilt and eventually led to the creation of The NAMES Project Foundation.

Sharing The Quilt's History

The 2012 Folklife Festival was forced to stay closed on one day due to damage caused by a rare and destructive thunderstorm complex that pounded the D.C. region on June 29. The AIDS Memorial Quilt was impacted, but incurred only minor damage. This was a testament to the resilience of The Quilt, the program team, and the visitors who pitched in to help.

Power of the Panel

Watch a video of Mike Smith telling stories about the inspirational power of The Quilt.

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Marchers tape placards bearing the names of friends and loved ones to the walls of the San Francisco Federal Building in 1985. Photo courtesy of The NAMES Project Foundation

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Quilt Fact:

The NAMES Project Foundation was founded in San Francisco in 1987.