44 pages 1 hour read

Tiya Miles

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

Nonfiction | Biography | Adult | Published in 2021

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Prologue & Introduction

Chapter Summaries & Analyses

Prologue Summary: “Emergency Packs”

Miles opens her work with the decisive event that precipitated the sale of a nine-year-old enslaved girl named Ashley. On December 12, 1852, Robert Martin, a wealthy Charleston “planter” with numerous properties across the South Carolina Lowcountry succumbed to a “brain disease,” dying at the age of 61. Comprising the assets counted as belonging to the Martin estate were enslaved people, one of them a woman named Rose of approximately 34 years of age, and her daughter Ashley. When a landholder like Martin died, it was inevitably a terrifying and turbulent time for the enslaved people held as property by his estate. In the execution of an enslaver’s last will and testament, enslaved people were often sold along with land, properties, and assets to liquidate the estate and execute the wishes of the deceased. Rose knew that Martin’s death meant that her own sale, and that of her daughter, was highly likely.

With fears of their separation in mind, Rose packed for her daughter a cotton sack with an inventory of resources that her child could carry with her and cherish as she faced the consequences of their shared condition of powerlessness alone. Among the thematic elements Miles considered as she embarked upon her research into “Ashley’s Sack” were the notion of how individuals utterly stripped of their rights managed to exert autonomy and agency despite the limitations imposed upon them by their circumstances.