The Weeping Time 2023 Commemoration - March 2nd - March 5th in Savannah and Darien Georgia
The Weeping Time marks a period in our history designated as the largest documented sale of enslaved people ever recorded in North America. It occurred March 2 - 3, 1859, in Savannah, Georgia. I first learned of this story in 2016 when a short interview with Dr. Kwesi DeGraft Hanson was broadcast on WRAS. As the interview ended, I had so many questions. I tracked down DeGraft-Hanson and invited him to the WCLK Studios. In that interview, he spoke again about finding the names of his family members in the records from the sale catalog. He spoke about 30 babies being sold, the youngest an infant born on Valentine's Day. This shook me, and I asked many more questions after our interview. I didn’t realize it then, but this interview would change my life.
The tables turn on The Local Take, and producer Robert Maynard asks me about my evolving relationship with a story.
I first heard the story in February of 2016 while listening to WRAS. It was a short interview with Dr. Kwesi DeGraft Hanson. He first spoke about his study of the building material “tabby,” which uses oyster shells and indicates African builders. DeGraft-Hanson is a landscape architect. After finding a tabby structure in west Georgia, he researched the property he learned about, the Butler Plantation, and the family that enslaved over 1000 humans on two large plantations. One produced rice and the other produced cotton. DeGraft-Hanson spoke about finding his family's names on the enslaved lists. Quako and Ama are day names from Ghana, where DeGraft-Hanson was born. This drove him to learn more. I couldn’t understand how that must of felt.
I reached out to DeGraft-Hanson and invited him to the WCLK studios. We ended up speaking for 45 minutes. In that interview, Dr. DeGraft-Hanson spoke about the recording of the sale being done by an undercover journalist. He spoke about the existence of a sale catalog and the running of advertisements throughout the region. He spoke about tracking descendants and the commemoration and memorial he planned. He also spoke about the youngest person sold during the event. An infant was born on Valentine's Day and sold during the sale on March 2nd and 3rd. He also shared that The Weeping Time was called this by the enslaved. The sale was delayed by one hour because at the time that the sale was supposed to begin, a downpour began. It rained steadily until the last enslaved person walked off the auction block. The enslaved said that the heavens wept due to man’s inhumanity to man.
In 2018 my personal relationship with this story changed. Dr. Kwesi, as I have come to call him, reached out to me in August of that year. He had begun researching to learn the name of a sports figure whose family descended from the Butler Plantation. He was researching in a book entitled Major Butler’s Legacy: Five Generations of a Slaveholding Family by Malcolm Bell. While doing so, he found details about the baby born on Valentine’s Day. The passage from the book is below -
……a plantation carpenter, was sold with his wife Daphne and two children. Dido, the oldest child was three years old, and the other was a new baby born on St. Valentine’s Day. When presented to the buyers, Daphne covered herself and the new baby with a large shawl as protection against the cold rain. The buyers objected, called for the auctioneer to “pull off her rags,” and asked, “Who’s going to bid on that nigger if you keep her covered up? The Primus family sold for $2,500.
I gasped…my stomach turned. Valentine was mine…the infant that had touched me shared my surname. Valentine was mine. I began started crying. I wanted to shout to everyone within hearing range that Valentine was mine. Finding your name in the history books connected to the darkest days of our country’s history is an amazing thing.
The 2023 Weeping Time Commemoration will take place in Savannah and Darien Georgia, beginning March 2nd - March 5th. For details, please visit The Weeping Time Commemoration Facebook Page