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

Ruth Mid­dle­ton


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.

Black Girl With Long Hair

Leila Noel­liste, founder of Black Girl with Long Hair (April 2008). Social media, pop cul­ture and black beau­ty enthu­si­ast. bell hooks’ hair twin…

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9 Comments on "[Pic] This 160-Year-Old Cotton Sack is Stitched With a Slave Girl’s Family History"

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This made me cry real tears. So. Much. Anger. It also reminds me of the mag­ic we Black girls and women are. We per­se­vere. Against ALL odds.

Sabrina black

Heart wrench­ing.


A FLEA MARKET … I can imag­ine all the arti­facts from that time peri­od peo­ple have lying around, and don’t know it’s true worth.

Claudette UK

I have a nine year old daugh­ter and I can’t imag­ine hav­ing her torn out of my arms. The things that our ances­tors went through it hor­rif­ic and hum­bling.


I know sis, this sto­ry real­ly brought tears in my eyes. The atroc­i­ties are unset­tling.

Mouse bites

The fact that the sack was found at a Ten­nessee flea mar­ket sad­dens me. I’m glad that some­one found the bag and recon­gized it as a his­tor­i­cal arti­fact. The his­to­ry and the embroi­dery on it is very beau­ti­ful!


Heart­break­ing sto­ry.… Can u imag­ine being 9yrs old & being ripped away from your moth­er? That poor child must have guard­ed that sack with her life! It is filled with love but im sure with A LOT of tears also. ?


I real­ly wish the sack would’ve con­tin­ued to be passed down through the gen­er­a­tion of their fam­i­lies. That’s so sad. So much his­to­ry, love, and heart­break stitched into that sack. It would’ve made a great fam­i­ly heir­loom


I won­der if there’s any fam­i­ly left. I’d love to know the jour­ney the sack went on from Penn­syl­va­nia to Ten­nessee.