A 160-year-old cotton sack tells the story of the love slave mother Rose had for her daughter Ashley, who was ripped from in the 1850s when she was sold for $300. Rose was a house slave in South Carolina and, before her 9‑year-old daughter was taken away, she gave her a cotton sack filled with a tattered dress, three handfuls of pecans and a lock of her hair. She told her daughter it would always be filled with her love.
Ashley, who never saw her mother again, passed the sack down to granddaughter Ruth Middleton, who stitched her family history onto it in 1921.
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
During slavery families were often split up by sale. Though common it was still heart-wrenching, and when slavery was abolished thousands of the newly freed desperately tried to reconnect with family.
As for Ashley, historians discovered that after being taken from her mother, she lived and labored on an estate just 100 miles away.
Ashley’s granddaughter Ruth passed the sack on to her daughter Dorothy, who passed away in a Philadelphia nursing home in 1988. The sack turned up at a Tennessee flea market in 2008 and was eventually turned over to new Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington D.C., where it is currently on display.
You can read more about the history of the sack here.