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

A modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, SuperSummary offers high-quality Study Guides with detailed chapter summaries and analysis of major themes, characters, and more.


Material Culture as Source Documentation for the Experiences of Marginalized and Misrepresented People

Antique objects have served as repositories of legacy for enslaved people and their descendants, who are disproportionately underrepresented in surviving written historical records, especially those kept in the American South. These material objects are similarly scarce, as Black people were routinely dispossessed of their homes and personal property from the time of slavery through the periods of Reconstruction and Jim Crow. Some of those precious objects that have survived have been preserved through acts of rescue, and the salvaging of things is imbued with not only the stories of the objects’ origins, but also the efforts required to retain possession of them over time. These objects themselves have instructive properties, carrying memories of their emotional significance and a lens through which to view the family’s collective past, especially when an artifact’s meaning derives from its survival through a period of hardship. These objects survive as testaments of their owners’ survival and carry a collective reference uniting families in their understanding of their shared story.

Perhaps one of the greatest mysteries of the Ashley’s Sack is how it came to end up in a bin full of assorted textiles in an outdoor market outside of Nashville. Ruth died of tuberculosis before age 40, and despite extensive efforts by Miles and expert genealogists she consulted with, Ruth’s daughter Dorothy vanishes from the record until her death is recorded in 1988.