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Historian Tiya Miles’ Anisfield-Wolf award-winning text, All That She Carried: The Journey of Ashley’s Sack, A Black Family’s Keepsake (2022) is a story of archival absence. Within its pages, Miles models the way in which deep engagement with material culture and imaginative investments in historical recovery can conjure forth silenced voices. Through an act of powerful storytelling, Miles takes the reader on a journey: “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 experiences of slavery, and the uncertain freedom afterward, in the United States.”



Inspired by the visual essay, “Carrying Capacity”—the result of a collaboration between Michelle May-Curry and Tiya Miles included in the center of All That She Carried—we invite
our campus communities to:

Write an essay (1,000 word maximum) describing an object or material culture artifact that helps you to tell a (silenced) history of your family or chosen community. As Miles describes it, the story of “things passed on” (304). Ideas include:

  • Share a recipe
  • Share something handmade—a quilt, carving, household item
  • Share a photograph
  • Share a letter
  • Share an item of clothing

Photograph this object—you can be creative in creating this image.

This contest is open to students, faculty, and staff at Case Western Reserve University, Cuyahoga Community College, Lorain Community College, Lakeland Community College,
and Ursuline College.

Please submit all essays and photographs by 1 May 2023.

Link to Google Drive:

Questions? Contact:

The submissions will be evaluated by a panel of judges, including by Michelle May-Curry. A prize of $200 will be awarded for first place, $100 for second, $50 for third, and $25 for honorable mentions.

If selected, your work will be included in a public display as a part of the Cleveland Book Week celebrations in the fall of 2023. Details TBD.

Learn more about Ashley’s Sack here. Explore more visual collaborations by Miles and May-Curry here.