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.
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.
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.