IAAM Collections: Ashley’s sack, An artifact that brings people to tears

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It’s a piece of cloth, sewn together into a small sack.

When it was given by an enslaved woman named Rose in the mid-1800’s, it held a dress, braid of her hair, pecans, and “my love always.” The sack, and the love it contained, were a gift to Rose’s nine-year-old daughter Ashley, who was soon thereafter taken from her mother in a sale of enslaved people.

To the onlooker, this might seem like nothing more than an old keepsake – and they would be wrong. Ashley’s sack is a treasured artifact of African American history, and it holds the story of a love that traveled across generations from enslavement to freedom.

Soon enough, the museum will be the new home for Ashley’s sack, alongside so many one-of-a-kind artifacts that will tell a fuller story of the African American journey.

But we need funding to finish the construction and we cannot open our doors without the support of generous friends like you. Will you invest in this critical work by becoming a Charter Member today?

There are precious few artifacts that represent the belongings of enslaved people, and Ashley’s sack is among them.

This sack is a visceral reminder of the love that bound people together even in the midst of our nation’s cruelty. A reminder of the humanity that was ever-present, even as freedom and dignity were stolen.

In 1921, Ashley’s granddaughter Ruth Middleton added embroidery to the sack, reading:

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 handfulls 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, 1921

As historian Tiya Miles wrote in “All That She Carried,” her history of Ashley’s sack, “Ruth’s chronicle is evidence of a long-term effect that Rose would never see: her female line would continue against all odds, and her will to love would be carried forward.”

And now, on loan from Middleton Place Foundation, Ashley’s Sack will be featured at IAAM, educating visitors about the deep historical meaning contained within this simple object. And by supporting the museum, you will play an active role in maintaining the legacy of Ashley’s sack, along with everything we will house and teach.

Become a Charter Member today, and together, we will bring the museum to life with incredible artifacts like Ashley’s sack and so much more.

The MinorityEye is a news and information aggregator that curates the voices, thoughts and perspectives of minority writers, bloggers, authors, reporters, columnists, pundits, consultants and thought leaders as well as those who write about minorities and issues that impact people and communities of color.

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