Tiya Miles, the Michael Garvey Professor of History and the Radcliffe Alumnae Professor at Harvard University, recently was awarded the 2022 Cundill History Prize, administered by McGill University in Montreal. The $75,000 award is the largest purse for a book of nonfiction published in English.
The Cundill History Prize is named after Canada’s F. Peter Cundill, a philanthropist, sportsman, diarist, and McGill alumnus who died in 2011. The international award has been given annually since 2008 to the book that embodies historical scholarship, originality, literary quality, and broad appeal.
Professor Miles was honored for her book All That She Carried: The Journey of Ashley’s Sack, A Black Family Keepsake (Random House, 2021). 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.
Dr. Miles was born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Afro-American studies from Harvard University, a master’s degree in women’s studies from Emory University in Atlanta, and a Ph.D. in American studies from the University of Minnesota. Before coming to Harvard, Professor Miles taught on the faculty of the University of Michigan for 16 years, where she served as chair of the department of Afroamerican & African studies.