Author Tiya Miles was awarded the $75,000 Cundill History Prize, which recognizes the best history writing in English, for All That She Carried: The Journey of Ashley’s Sack, a Black Family Keepsake.
In a unanimous decision, the 2022 jurors decided to award Miles the prize for her “superbly written” story of an enslaved mother and her daughter, which traces the lives of three generations of Black women through one object: a cotton sack.
“All That She Carried is a history that reminds us about what makes us human,” said juror Martha S. Jones in a statement.
The book brings determined research and eloquent compassion to the story of an enslaved mother and her daughter just as they are doomed to be separated, and then discovers how one mother’s love survived across time and space in the form of a simple cotton sack. We learn how the past still shapes our present and how we might use its hard won lessons to face the hardship of our own times. Miles deploys dogged research and elegant prose to reveal how the survivors of slavery’s crime against humanity left a legacy that undergirds our present-day strivings for justice. As jurors we had the welcome opportunity to read All That She Carried over and again; it is a book I will share with the people in my life as a model of historical scholarship and a beacon for finding our way.