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All That She Carried

All That She Carried: The Journey of Ashley’s Sack, A Black Family Keepsake

Tiya Miles

Thursday, April 7, 2022, at 7:00 PM ET

Cosponsored by the American Antiquarian Society

Approx. 60 minutes


This online event is free, but registration is required. You will be sent an email with a link and instructions on how to join the event upon registration. Closed captioning is available as an option for this program via Zoom’s live transcription.

In 1850s South Carolina, an enslaved woman named Rose faced a crisis, the imminent sale of her daughter Ashley. Thinking quickly, she packed a cotton bag with a few precious items as a token of love and to try to ensure Ashley’s survival. Soon after, the nine-year-old girl was separated from her mother and sold. Decades later, Ashley’s granddaughter, Ruth, inherited the sack and embroidered it with just a handful of words that evoke her family’s sweeping story of loss and of love. It reads:

My great grandmother Rose
mother of Ashley gave her this sack when
she was sold at age 9 in South Carolina
it held a tattered dress 3 handfuls of
pecans a braid of Roses hair. Told her
it be filled with my Love always
she never saw her again
Ashley is my grandmother
Ruth Middleton

Join historian Tiya Miles as she discusses her new book All That She Carried: The Journey of Ashley’s Sack, a Black Family Keepsake (Penguin Random House, 2022), a captivating story about women, mothers and daughters, who chose the profundity of love over dehumanizing conditions. In her book, Miles unearths the faint presence of Rose, Ashley, and Ruth through archival research and draws on objects and art to follow the paths of their lives—and the lives of so many women like them— in a revelatory history of the experience of slavery in the United States, and the uncertain freedom afterward.

© Kimberly P. Mitchell Tiya Miles is professor of history, Radcliffe Alumnae Professor at the Harvard-Radcliffe Institute, and director of the Charles Warren Center for Studies in American History at Harvard University. She is the author of All That She Carried, which was awarded the National Book Awarded for Nonfiction in 2021. She is a recipient of a MacArthur Foundation fellowship, a National Endowment for the Humanities fellowship, and the Hiett Prize in the Humanities from the Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture. Miles is also the author of The Dawn of Detroit, which won the Frederick Douglass Book Prize and an American Book Award, among other honors, as well as the acclaimed books Ties That Bind, The House on Diamond Hill, The Cherokee Rose: A Novel of Gardens and Ghosts, and Tales from the Haunted South, a published lecture series.