Heirlooms From Enslavement Provide Proof Of Black Survival Through The Ages

ashley's sack with writing on it
L. Graciella Maiolatesi
July 18, 2022

Heirlooms are powerful items full of ancestral energy. During slavery, enslaved Africans possessed little, but what they did own they cherished. 

To give an heirloom to someone showed deep love. A powerful example of this is “Ashley’s Sack.”

Around 1852, Ashley was sold away from her mother, Rose. Prior to their separation, Rose packed Ashley an “emergency kit.”

Over time Ashley‘s kit became an heirloom. Her granddaughter, Ruth, embroidered the sack the kit came in

“‘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’—Ruth Middleton/ 1921.”

Slavery separated families and erased proof they ever existed. The sack, like other heirlooms, is evidence of survival!

Ashley’s Sack is currently displayed in the International African American Museum.

Our community and experiences matter. If you don’t have heirlooms, you can choose items you’d like to pass down - items should be reflective of your journey, lineage, or spiritual energy. What parts of your life can you share with those you love?

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