NATIONAL BOOK AWARD WINNER • NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • A renowned historian traces the life of a single object handed down through three generations of Black women to craft a “deeply layered and insightful” (The Washington Post) testament to people who are left out of the archives.
WINNER: PEN/John Kenneth Galbraith Award, Anisfield-Wolf Book Award, Lawrence W. Levine Award, Darlene Clark Hine Award • ONE OF THE TEN BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR: The Washington Post, Slate, Vulture, Publishers Weekly
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 for her with a few items, and, soon after, the nine-year-old girl was separated from her mother and sold. Decades later, Ashley’s granddaughter Ruth embroidered this family history on the sack in spare, haunting language.
Historian Tiya Miles carefully traces these women’s faint presence in archival records, and, where archives fall short, she turns to objects, art, and the environment to write a singular history of the experience of slavery, and the uncertain freedom afterward, in the United States. All That She Carried is a poignant story of resilience and love passed down against steep odds. It honors the creativity and resourcefulness of people who preserved family ties when official systems refused to do so, and it serves as a visionary illustration of how to reconstruct and recount their stories today