Public Program Titles

All That She Carried: The Journey of Ashley's Sack, a Black Family Keepsake

All That She Carried: The Journey of Ashley's Sack, a Black Family Keepsake

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LONGLISTED FOR THE NATIONAL BOOK AWARD - KIRKUS PRIZE FINALIST - A renowned historian traces the life of a single object handed down through three generations of Black women to craft an extraordinary testament to people who are left out of the archives.

"Deeply layered and insightful . . . [a] bold reflection on American history, African American resilience, and the human capacity for love and perseverance in the face of soul-crushing madness."--The Washington Post

"A history told with brilliance and tenderness and fearlessness."--Jill Lepore, author of These Truths: A History of the United States

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, in this illuminating, deeply moving new book inspired by Rose's gift to Ashley, 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.

The search to uncover this history is part of the story itself. For where the historical record falls short of capturing Rose's, Ashley's, and Ruth's full lives, Miles turns to objects and to art as equally important sources, assembling a chorus of women's and families' stories and critiquing the scant archives that for decades have overlooked so many. The contents of Ashley's sack-- a tattered dress, handfuls of pecans, a braid of hair, "my Love always"--are eloquent evidence of the lives these women lived. As she follows Ashley's journey, Miles metaphorically unpacks the bag, deepening its emotional resonance and exploring the meanings and significance of everything it contained.

All That She Carried
is a poignant story of resilience and of love passed down through generations of women against steep odds. It honors the creativity and fierce resourcefulness of people who preserved family ties even when official systems refused to do so, and it serves as a visionary illustration of how to reconstruct and recount their stories today.

Assembled for Use: Indigenous Compilation and the Archives of Early Native American Literatures

Assembled for Use: Indigenous Compilation and the Archives of Early Native American Literatures

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A wide-ranging, multidisciplinary look at Native American literature through non-narrative texts like lists, albums, recipes, and scrapbooks

Kelly Wisecup offers a sweeping account of early Native American literatures by examining Indigenous compilations: intentionally assembled texts that Native people made by juxtaposing and recontextualizing textual excerpts into new relations and meanings. Experiments in reading and recirculation, Indigenous compilations include Mohegan minister Samson Occom's medicinal recipes, the Ojibwe woman Charlotte Johnston's poetry scrapbooks, and Abenaki leader Joseph Laurent's vocabulary lists. Indigenous compilations proliferated in a period of colonial archive making, and Native writers used compilations to remake the very forms that defined their bodies, belongings, and words as ethnographic evidence. This study enables new understandings of canonical Native writers like William Apess, prominent settler collectors like Thomas Jefferson and Henry Rowe Schoolcraft, and Native people who contributed to compilations but remain absent from literary histories. Long before current conversations about decolonizing archives and museums, Native writers made and circulated compilations to critique colonial archives and foster relations within Indigenous communities.

Chicago Avant Garde:five Women Ahead of Their Time
Chicago Avant Garde:five Women Ahead of Their Time

Chicago Avant Garde: Five Women Ahead of Their Time

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Chicago Avant-Garde tells the story of five women who took radical risks in their lives and in their art: artist Gertrude Abercrombie, poet Gwendolyn Brooks, choreographers Katherine Dunham and Ruth Page, and dealer-curator Katharine Kuh. Inspired and challenged by Chicago, they helped transform the city into a hub of avant-garde experimentation.


This catalog accompanies an exhibition opening at the Newberry Library on September 10, 2021. Designed by graphic artists Nick Butcher and Nadine Nakanishi of Sonnenzimmer and letterpress printer Ben Blount, Chicago Avant-Garde includes more than 100 photographs, an engaging and deeply researched essay by Liesl Olson (Director of Chicago Studies at the Newberry), and powerful new poems dedicated to each of the five avant-gardists by Chicago-based poet and educatorEve L. Ewing.


Chicago's Great Fire: The Destruction and Resurrection of an Iconic American City

Chicago's Great Fire: The Destruction and Resurrection of an Iconic American City

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From an acclaimed historian, the full and authoritative story of one of the most iconic disasters in American history, told through the vivid memories of those who experienced it

Between October 8-10, 1871, much of the city of Chicago was destroyed by one of the most legendary urban fires in history. Incorporated as a city in 1837, Chicago had grown at a breathtaking pace in barely three decades, from just over 4,000 in 1840 to greater than 330,000 at the time of the fire. Built hastily, the city was largely made of wood. Once it began in the barn of Catherine and Patrick O'Leary, the Fire quickly grew out of control, twice jumping branches of the Chicago River on its relentless northeastward path through the city's three divisions. Close to one of every three Chicago residents was left homeless and more were instantly unemployed, though the death toll was miraculously low.

Remarkably, no carefully researched popular history of the Great Chicago Fire has been written until now, despite it being one of the most cataclysmic disasters in US history. Building the story around memorable characters, both known to history and unknown, including the likes of General Philip Sheridan and Robert Todd Lincoln, eminent Chicago historian Carl Smith chronicles the city's rapid growth and place in America's post-Civil War expansion. The dramatic story of the fire--revealing human nature in all its guises--became one of equally remarkable renewal, as Chicago quickly rose back up from the ashes thanks to local determination and the world's generosity and faith in Chicago's future.

As we approach the fire's 150th anniversary, Carl Smith's compelling narrative at last gives this epic event its full and proper place in our national chronicle.

NATION OF DESCENDANTS: POLITIC

NATION OF DESCENDANTS: POLITIC

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From family trees written in early American bibles to birther conspiracy theories, genealogy has always mattered in the United States, whether for taking stock of kin when organizing a family reunion or drawing on membership--by blood or other means--to claim rights to land, inheritances, and more. And since the advent of DNA kits that purportedly trace genealogical relations through genetics, millions of people have used them to learn about their medical histories, biological parentage, and ethnic background.

A Nation of Descendants traces Americans' fascination with tracking family lineage through three centuries. Francesca Morgan examines how specific groups throughout history grappled with finding and recording their forebears, focusing on Anglo-American white, Mormon, African American, Jewish, and Native American people. Morgan also describes how individuals and researchers use genealogy for personal and scholarly purposes, and she explores how local businesspeople, companies like Ancestry.com, and Henry Louis Gates Jr.'s Finding Your Roots series powered the commercialization and commodification of genealogy.



Shattering: America in the 1960s

Shattering: America in the 1960s

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On July 4, 1961, the rising middle-class families of a Chicago neighborhood gathered before their flag-bedecked houses, a confident vision of the American Dream. That vision was shattered over the following decade, its inequities at home and arrogance abroad challenged by powerful civil rights and antiwar movements. Assassinations, social violence, and the blowback of a "silent majority" shredded the American fabric.

Covering the late 1950s through the early 1970s, The Shattering focuses on the period's fierce conflicts over race, sex, and war. The civil rights movement develops from the grassroots activism of Montgomery and the sit-ins, through the violence of Birmingham and the Edmund Pettus Bridge, to the frustrations of King's Chicago campaign, a rising Black nationalism, and the Nixon-era politics of busing and the Supreme Court. The Vietnam war unfolds as Cold War policy, high-stakes politics buffeted by powerful popular movements, and searing in-country experience. Americans' challenges to government regulation of sexuality yield landmark decisions on privacy rights, gay rights, contraception, and abortion.

Kevin Boyle captures the inspiring and brutal events of this passionate time with a remarkable empathy that restores the humanity of those making this history. Often they are everyday people like Elizabeth Eckford, enduring a hostile crowd outside her newly integrated high school in Little Rock, or Estelle Griswold, welcoming her arrest for dispensing birth control information in a Connecticut town. Political leaders also emerge in revealing detail: we track Richard Nixon's inheritances from Eisenhower and his debt to George Wallace, who forged a message of racism mixed with blue-collar grievance that Nixon imported into Republicanism.

The Shattering illuminates currents that still run through our politics. It is a history for our times.

The Sentence

The Sentence

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In this stunning and timely novel, Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award-winning author Louise Erdrich creates a wickedly funny ghost story, a tale of passion, of a complex marriage, and of a woman's relentless errors.

Louise Erdrich's latest novel, The Sentence, asks what we owe to the living, the dead, to the reader and to the book. A small independent bookstore in Minneapolis is haunted from November 2019 to November 2020 by the store's most annoying customer. Flora dies on All Souls' Day, but she simply won't leave the store. Tookie, who has landed a job selling books after years of incarceration that she survived by reading with murderous attention, must solve the mystery of this haunting while at the same time trying to understand all that occurs in Minneapolis during a year of grief, astonishment, isolation, and furious reckoning.

The Sentence begins on All Souls' Day 2019 and ends on All Souls' Day 2020. Its mystery and proliferating ghost stories during this one year propel a narrative as rich, emotional, and profound as anything Louise Erdrich has written.

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