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tv   Tiya Miles All That She Carried  CSPAN  November 22, 2021 10:53pm-11:55pm EST

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walter pincus on this episode of notes plus, it's available on the cspan now app or wherever you get to podcast. >> download cspan's new mobile app and stay up-to-date with slide video coverage of today's political and is watching to the house and the senate floor and see congressional hearings the white house events and oral arguments and even a live interactive morning program, washington turnover we hear your voices everyday, cspan out as you covered, download the app for free today. >> greetings and welcome to the museum it, and executive director and i want to thank all of you for watching the program and express our appreciation to our cosponsors, crude predict
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and knows my pleasure to introduce the director. >> thank you tom, so i have the absolute honor and privilege to introduce one of the most renowned and prolific historians pof african-american and native american history today and you don't have to take my word for it and she's been the recipient of the foundation award, born and raised in cincinnati ohio, doctor miles holds and studies from university and ma in women's studies and a phd in american studies from the university of minnesota, and currently doctor tyia miles is a professor at harvard and she is also the director of the charles center for studies in american history did now when i say that she is prolific, i'm not getting she is the author of six books,
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her first book one of frederick jackson award from the organization of american historians, and another price from the american studies association. and thousand i'm inhaled when the national council on public history and the american society for ethnohistory comprises in her novel, the chair she rose was a finalist predict and she is a published lecture series and the daughter of detroit won the award in social history, the ljames road price and history of racial relations from the organization of american historians. and best biography for historians of the early american republic, and the legacy awarded in nonfiction, and american book award in frederick douglass prize. in her latest book, "all that she carried", the journey actually have a black family
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keepsake and an outpouring of praise. and some of that praise i'm going to focus on comes from a lady that she said that although she carries the perilous miles can present both of the staggering atrocity of american slavery and staggering courage and beauty of the life she chronicled in the history filled with brilliant and tenderness and seriousness. and i can attest to the humanness and the rigor in which he approaches his three and when i first set off to do this archival research, she said she was been more interested what she could do with five documents and 500 and at the time i didn't quite understand it but she was preparing me to confront the reality that the stories of the very people who are compelled to labor for this nation would be left out of the archives. but we must tell her stories anyway. her words reminded me that the work of a great historian, is to
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acknowledge the delimitation and than to think creatively and expensively about help we can ask questions and utilize new sources to not only imagine but also paint a portrait of black women's lives and all that she carries, tyia miles carries art when they fall short to capture the moment of rosen ashley's lives predict and what is more important, but is more tender and if the devotion to our ancestors lives in history. and her devotions wrestling has redefined history, native american studies, black studies in women's studies and is given all of us the courage and to be bolder and more defiant in the stories we tell and with that, would like to welcome doctor tyia miles. >> thank you predict that was so moving and generous and wonderful and thank you.
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i am thrilled that we are gathered here and people with us and honestly, i could go to bed right now happy with the word you just said. a what a pleasure it is to be here pretty. >> it is really gratifying and i am grateful to you. thank you for inviting me in bringing together additional partners to host this event and i thank you so so important that we have the slave quarters here and because the museums are critical for the interpretation of this country for the public and museums are the artifacts.
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i couldn't be happier than to come before you. i am actually away from my home right now. i'm on an island where i have been doing research on another museum. the african-american history which is centered on incredible historic site that was built by the black community here going back to the 18th century in the 19th century but again i'm so grateful for the work. so, i have about 15 or 20 minutes this evening to offer an overview in the framework. and i thought that i would begin
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with "all that she carried" and that is a book. so now i'm going to share my screen. ... bag surprisingly eventful ad impactful life although it looks on the surface to be quite
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plain. it was given the name by the curators which is the first case we know of and to describe it in the following way in the first description. charleston south carolina plain cotton fabrication three strand in and embroidery, 11 by 16. plain leaf cotton -- strong
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enough to hold heavy cotton and carefully in place and that is the work of mary edmund o'sullivan as well as her partner. the first to attach the name in the artifact. this past march at the museum of african-american history and culture, currently in the landmark and following the
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middleton. operated by the foundation that gives the owner the fact. it will be exhibited at the international african-american museum. this sack has taken so many twists and turns along its journey to these sites in the country. one of the pivotal moments took place when a free-market shopper like you or me was in tennessee and came across this sack that looked like a rag that was being sold for the price of around
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$20. she discovered that it wasn't at all what it seemed because in fact even b more compelling abot enslaved lives and textile and craftwork and about inheritances writ large, love and resilience. it passed down items from other generations. from the common family practice it's one that i've been fortunate enough to engage with as well with a number of items given to me.
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i think they hold the photographs from a parent, grandparent and mothers. it also stands apart from it and it's something that is familiar with ventricles the book and allows the simple concept because in this case, a black mother with little control over her own life and no financial assets passed down. she was in enslaved woman and
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was about to have her child. in that moment that we can scarcely imagine she decided to pack it with a variety of items. instead it would soon be a 9-year-old little girl named ashley. when rose learned this, she got on her feet with creativity and foresight and made what might have been a sudden judgment call. she could have asked in that
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moment what keeps one girl alive and if the answer to that question. address and a mothers love. today some of these items still exist i tried to think about and open up the discussion.
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to think about the stories of black women's history, black family history, general culture history and even stories of the emergency of what can be done and what must be done when it feels like the world is collapsing in on a family, a community, on a nation. and so, i think about it as a way that could have kept her close and the shield to protect her from the eyes of slave traders. it may have been an aide and
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escape. it's almost like a photograph, like rose, the mother herself. because hair holds our dna, it may have also symbolized. because it was an easy kind of food for us to get our hands on in south carolina but it's a little bit further westward to
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illinois and texas and mexico. it turns out it's also incredibly nutritious so she could have used that to stave off hunger and trade it for other things. it could remind her that she was worthy by insisting that she was beloved so the fact on the eve of their separation ashley
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passed it down to her granddaughter and a woman who migrated to philadelphia for the first wave of the great migration and with the story that i just told you with a blak mother's eternal love. my great grandmother gave her this sack at age nine in south carolina with three handfuls of pecan told her it will be filled with my love always.
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ashley is my grandmother. 1921. it's common in american slavery and yet for this mother and this daughter when i think it is in that specificity of their intimate story and the fact that this was common. for the embroidery of the story it reminds us that despite that
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all atrocity it also gives us a hint of how it is that they were able to survive. we can see through the story they seem to have identified the physical and emotional things their loved ones would need with things included among human needs, food and clothing and also shelter. that may seem like a bit of a stretch but it's actually quite
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wrong and wide as a weather shelter to place over her body as a blanket for food, clothing, shelter and an affirmation of belonging to a community and a group. this was no ordinary object. the evidenced emergency planning disaster. it's one of a kind in the moment of national crisis it is hope
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for her daughters perseverance was realized and came to pass after her persistence and her daughter rosa and ruth. the book that is set in motion whose ideals shaped the families perseverance the bookth offers a cautionary tale about the collective price and the values and in this case.
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let's look at the case which we can grasp for and reach for. about the treasure and the capacity. thank you. >> in thatin presentation and ts wonderful book which i cannot recommend enough to the viewers so richly textured so i really encourage the viewers to get the
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book in. i am honored to be here with you this evening but with some hesitation because it feels like as you write in the book those items are rendered with a force of emotional promise for a mothers enduring love and in that matter of unspeakable grief so i just wonder if you can comment on that and what it's been like to work with this artifact. >> it's an important question that goes to the center of the process and many of us work on
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enslavement and experience. first as you picked up on in the book, i do not use this word lightly because as an academic we've been trained to understand the lines of distinction between different kinds of methods and between different ways of knowing and understanding. i'm not a historian of religion or a theologian.
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that is what we try to understand. they tend to try to separate themselves from unless they are studying those topics. but when i first saw ashley's sack, the first thing that i experienced was an intense feeling of shock and how can this happens. but we already know. this is such a special thing.
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it's immediately and emotionally to the same object we put on our analytical habits and we can think about what we find with interpretations that are found.
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to do the work of trying to take it apart and put it back together again. once i had gone through that personal reckoning, i realized it has to come back around to that emotion because this is the centerpiece of the thing. the center of the textile and the center of these women's lives. so at the end of that journey i came back to you for a place in the book to understand it
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completely and to put love at the center of the book. >> there are chapters and i thought we could briefly go over the principal figures. not one record in the papers describe her cares, kindnesses, fears, frailties and we scale it. if they refuse to submit to the lie that she had no right to love her daughter reclaimed her child and the stance of the
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archives reveal to us the potential force of the human will against the on. can you tell the story ofh rose and why they were separated? we don't have the records that want and the records that we need to tell the satisfying history because they were not their own record keepers for the most part and they are not important in the eyes of those that did have the wherewithal. the most important thing i think is we will never get as close to her as we would languish to and
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to say what she was thinking, how she was feeling. both frustrating and beautiful because the fact was obtained by black women, text and passed down by black women, cared for and attended by black women and that is the kind of lineage for the thing itself that uplifts their experience and forces us to look beyond archives. archives are a wonderful place.
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and yet they are limited in flawed. from very limited archival the research on rose was first done by an anthropologist and he pieced together bits and pieces about her life in the south carolina records. i did the same independently and what we found was very helpful because it gives us a greater sense of confidence that what we
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think we know is possibly what took place. he was somebody that was striving to the upper echelons of south carolina and it was herself, the daughter of a man that had been enslaved by people plin the western part of the ste and he handled richer people's
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money. he was able to acquire his own plantation in the western part of the states of south carolina. around the same time they began acquiring and reselling in the 1830s and 1840s. i speculated that in the same period because the records that show him again acquiring. people along with the real estate purchase so he became rich and at the level of being a plantar and a census and then dies of a brain disease in 1862.
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wehe know that when a slaveholdr dies, there are some terrible things that happened in the lives of the people they own. it were attached to the enslavers it was not uncommon for people to be separated when their owners died. soon after its the case that soon thereafter, rosa died although i can't say that for sure. if it wasn't for this sack we might think that she had a
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meeting and being the bearer of the story and having the commitment and the creativity. a. >> and in the embroidery she says ashley is my grandma. you can't know for sure but she was alive duringng that moment. >> that's right. when what i try to do is draw out whatever might be present on the facts and then opened them up to interpretation and this is one of those moments you just referred to. the fact says ashley is my
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grandmother and to my mind suggests that. you write beautifully. so many ancestors came to them they sometimes follow the role of slavery. ashley had to just 9-years-old must have been gathered up in the transformation for the existential break is impossible for many of usld to fathom. maybe you could tell us ruth had a mother and you discover some things about the generation between ashley and you can tell us what youou learned there.
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>> there is a gap in this history but there's a bit of information about rose and ashley seems to say then we have ruth, the granddaughter the grandmother and the granddaughter i find it very interesting and inconclusive that the mother isn't mentioned. we don't know why she chose not to.
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it is a tradition in this period for people to name children and grandchildrenld after ancestors. it's another one of those ways of maintaining. in the interior of south carolina and the occupations for most in the late 19th and early 20th century. >> then you talk about capturing the story as it is written on
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paper and we have our first question from the audience may be you can talk about your thoughts to the importance of embroidery. we began to see so many forms and it looks like a poem and reads like a poem with some of the elements of the form like a recipe for the list that one needs of life across the story and it also has the look and feel of a document.
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there is the case that they are typically girls, young women at the middle classes. data signed their names and dates, so that's not unusual for me. at the same time, with this text next to a written document these kind off connections, this kind of association makes me think how creative and brilliant and innovative this must have been to layer the single record with all of these different
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suggestions. i sat with this for a while and founded curious andd interesting because i'm much more accustomed to working with britain and narratives written by black women who've been enslaved and either wrote the stories down themselves or told themel to someone else. so, i of course wondered it seems like it would be easier to write it down, and maybe she did. i can't assume she didn't write it down because we don't have that piece of paper. perhaps it was for her own purposes for her own family, perhaps it was as a way of
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sketching out what she would do on the embroidery. but she did take some other steps by showing the story which as i began to think about it really seemed to indicate because while a minority did learn a fancy needlework, for the most part it was reserved for the middle class. so, who came from a long line of women who had been a force
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through slavery or chosen with occupational options it's apart from that kind of labor with a middle-class style of respectability, adornment, and i think i ended up thinking this is a political aspect that she's saying i can do this. i deserve to be viewed with all the respect and admiration with which white women are viewed during the society.
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>> this particular piece has a certain vibrancy to it and encourages us to take some action. tell us what you mean by that. >> this part of the book i'm thinking about the fact that is influenced by two different inputs. one is how i felt in the conversations and what i saw. i felt like i was being drawn into something that was not just an inanimate object but is
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something that had its own vibrancy and life. the emotional mix for me basic things don't tend to have that impact. the fact seems to be it seems to exist they seem to have a sense of life around them and here
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they talk about academic work but i think this is the fact we still feel so that's one input. the other input is an academic conversation around the objects and things around thinking there's a difference between the terms interchangeably but suggests it may be pathetic, not doing much. they have more ability so that
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whole set of thinking influenced me as well to try to articulate. >> a lot of it is asking -- >> i haven't located any descendents and i have tried. in my previous projects, if there's one thing that i've published that has been out there for a handful of months but hasn't encouraged people to contact me and say i am a
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descendent so i'm hoping that they might be willing to. >> early on in the book -- i thought maybe you could tell us that story. >> one of the things that seems is that people that see it and interact with it often describe being called into a more intense
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space so i had people for instance mention it reminds them of their own children for example and that was very sad. when the fact does that, it brings forward those difficult painful memories but i think thaty it's also people who read the story and think about how unyielding it seems to be. i think it has that effect to a
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greater awareness but it's the same for me. i am a very fortunate keeper. the story was told by my grandmother. her name was alice and she told the story many times in the course of my childhood. my mother was a huge storyteller. we were told what it was like for her growing up in mississippi and how experts it seems pretty good and they had plenty to eat because they wouldn't always, they would go hungry later on.
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they had a porch, cows, land, they were doing well. but they lost their land when some white man in town came into basically threatened her father into signing i the land and aftr that moment, they were thrown into poverty. they had nothing. they became sharecroppers and had to basically go back up to any kind of assistance living. my mother ended up deciding, and i can't help but think about decisions made. my mother went north and moved to ohio and thinking back always
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to that moment into the hero of the story because even though having to give up their land. ran out of the back door and walked over to their neighbors house. i think about my great aunt margaret that i've never met and
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that story and resilience. i never even glimpsed at a picture. the connection is just as powerful. getting close to the end of our time i asked you a question earlier. i thought you might talk a little bit more to give another quote and have you comment on the burden of the relations but also in the preservation history and model for repurposing and
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regenerating theti relationshipn the work of sharedey purpose across the racial lines. there's a number of times in the book the notion of thinking of the challenges of others giving a bit more courage to face the challenges. but perhaps you can comment on that. >> i started working on this project in 2016. in world history given what followed, we had already been divided in many ways along the lines of political affiliation,
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but things became much more vitriolic and it seemed that they were only getting worse. this process helped me tooth have a sense of optimism because rose and ashley faced a separation that would last their entire lives and that was insurmountable. but they managed.
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and the same for ruth. i hesitate in saying this because i feel sometimes we overuse these words but i take heart in realizing in times like this, right back to the source, i think love is the answer that we have on the actions and that it offered us out of the gate for emergency crisis and extreme separation. >> i'm going to close the couple from the book but is there anything i didn't ask that you
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would like to share with the audience? >> a few thoughtss i would like to add here at the end. i have heard people repeat back to me. it says we are our descendents and sisters. it underscores the fact that we have to act the way that ruth acted and care. it is t our duty. >> let me put it in a little bit of context with three short
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quotes. the quiet assertion even for those at the bottom does that to stand on an eloquent dissent of the ideal by inciting failures can we commit our imagination to stitching the story across tomorrow as rose and ashley found through the landscape there is no place left for us in the walls of the world closing and we need to get out of here in a hurry come out of these frames of mind and the vision over connection and greed over care separating us one from another. our only option in this predicament is the emergency to act as first responders were diet not trying.
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we are the ancestors of our descendents. they are the generation with a radical hope for their survival. what would we pack into their sack. thank you for joining us this evening and thank you for this very moving story that you have relayed so beautifully. >> thank you for having me.
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