All That She Carried: The Journey of Ashley's Sack, a Black Family Keepsake

All That She Carried: The Journey of Ashley's Sack, a Black Family Keepsake by Tiya Miles 1984854992 9781984854995
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NATIONAL BOOK AWARD FINALIST - KIRKUS PRIZE FINALIST - A renowned historian traces the life of a single object handed down through three generations of Black women to craft an extraordinary testament to people who are left out of the archives.

"Deeply layered and insightful . . . [a] bold reflection on American history, African American resilience, and the human capacity for love and perseverance in the face of soul-crushing madness."--The Washington Post

"A history told with brilliance and tenderness and fearlessness."--Jill Lepore, author of These Truths: A History of the United States

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 Ashleys survival. Soon after, the nine-year-old girl was separated from her mother and sold.

Decades later, Ashleys granddaughter Ruth embroidered this family history on the bag in spare yet haunting language-- including Roses wish that "It be filled with my Love always." Ruths sewn words, the reason we remember Ashleys sack today, evoke a sweeping family story of loss and of love passed down through generations. Now, in this illuminating, deeply moving new book inspired by Roses gift to Ashley, historian Tiya Miles carefully unearths these womens faint presence in archival records to follow the paths of their lives--and the lives of so many women like them--to write a singular and revelatory history of the experience of slavery, and the uncertain freedom afterward, in the United States.

The search to uncover this history is part of the story itself. For where the historical record falls short of capturing Roses, Ashleys, and Ruths full lives, Miles turns to objects and to art as equally important sources, assembling a chorus of womens and families stories and critiquing the scant archives that for decades have overlooked so many. The contents of Ashleys sack-- a tattered dress, handfuls of pecans, a braid of hair, "my Love always"--are eloquent evidence of the lives these women lived. As she follows Ashleys journey, Miles metaphorically unpacks the bag, deepening its emotional resonance and exploring the meanings and significance of everything it contained.

All That She Carried
is a poignant story of resilience and of love passed down through generations of women against steep odds. It honors the creativity and fierce resourcefulness of people who preserved family ties even when official systems refused to do so, and it serves as a visionary illustration of how to reconstruct and recount their stories today.

Author: Tiya Miles

Language: English

Binding: Hardcover

Pages: 416

Publisher: Random House

Publication Date: 2021-06-08


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