Professor Mark Auslander traced the 150 year history of “Ashley’s Sack” which is on exhibit at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. A photo reproduction of the item is on display near Auslander (pictured below) at the college’s museum in Ellensburg, Wash.
She bought the unbleached cotton sack at a flea market in a small Tennessee town in February 2007, another find among many. But the words stitched by hand on one side of the carefully patched fabric haunted her.
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
She saw a mother quickly gathering what little she could for the daughter she would lose forever, and the anguish of a daughter facing a life without her mother. She dreamed about Ashley and cried as their separation played over and over in her mind.
The white woman who bought the sack for $20 in the town of Springfield decided she could not keep it. It didn’t feel right, owning something imbued with so much emotion.
After Googling “slaves” and “Middleton,” she found Middleton Place, an 18th century plantation on the Ashley River in South Carolina. She donated it to the historic site, and the provenance of this artifact, known as “Ashley’s Sack,” had mystified historians ever since.
In September, Ashley’s Sack was loaned to the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, which opened that month in Washington, D.C. And with its latest home come the stories of women named Rose, Ashley and Ruth Middleton after a year of research by Mark Auslander, a professor at Central Washington University.
Read the full article in the Yakima Herald-Republic.
Photo credit: Shawn Gust, Yakima Herald-Republic
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