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Grant number like: FZ-256478-17

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Tiya Alicia Miles
Regents of the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1382)

Public Scholars
Research Programs

[Grant products]

$42,000 (approved)
$35,700 (awarded)

Grant period:
8/1/2018 – 7/31/2019

The Story of "Ashley's Sack": A Family Heirloom in the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture

Research and writing of a book about African American women’s experience, as revealed through an embroidered cotton bag passed down through generations of enslaved and free women.

This proposed public history book project, The Things She Carried: A Meditation on “Ashley’s Sack,” aims to present the unexpected story of a unique material artifact: an embroidered plain cotton sack from the 19th century given to an enslaved daughter from her mother and then passed down by the women of the Middleton family as a testament to their history in slavery and freedom. The item, called Ashley’s Sack, is now on display in the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. The purpose of this project is to use this beautiful and wrenching artifact that has already arrested the attention of many to tell interlocking stories about black women’s history, American history, and public history that draw out the themes of love, loss, and rescue. This book will explore the many embedded historical and cultural meanings of the sack in a form that is intellectually revealing, accessible, and lyrical.