A slave mother’s love in 56 carefully stitched words


For about $300, a 9-year-old girl named Ashley was sold as a slave.

Her mother, Rose, remained a house slave at a mansion in South Carolina.

The bag Rose, a slave and mother, gave to her 9-year-old daughter the day she was sold away. They never saw each other again.

This was the 1850s, roughly a decade before Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, setting slaves free.

Before mother and daughter were separated, Rose gave Ashley a cotton sack. It contained a tattered dress, three handfuls of pecans and a lock of her hair. Rose told Ashley it was filled with love — always.

Ashley never saw her mom again, but she kept the sack. It was handed down through the generations, along with her story, to her granddaughter, Ruth Middleton.

Ruth, a single mom in Philadelphia, stitched her family story into the cloth sack 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


Nearly 100 years later, the bag was found at a flea market in Tennessee. A woman bought it and donated it to Middleton Place, a famous plantation in South Carolina that refuses to shy away from its awful history.

Historians puzzled over the identities of Rose, Ashley and Ruth, where they came from and where their descendants ended up.

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