In a display case in the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture sits a rough cotton bag, called Ashley's Sack, embroidered with just a handful of words that evoke a sweeping family story of loss and of love, passed down through generations. 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 with a few precious items as a token of love and to try to ensure Ashley's survival. 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 bag in spare yet haunting language -- including Rose's wish that "It be filled with my Love always." Ruth's sewn words, the reason we remember Ashley's sack today, evoke a sweeping family story of loss and of love passed down through generations. Now historian Tiya Miles carefully unearths these women's faint presence in archival records to follow the paths of their lives -- and the lives of so many women like them -- to write a singular and revelatory history of the experience of slavery, and the uncertain freedom afterward, in the United States.