In 1859, one of the largest slave sales in U.S. history took place at the Ten Broeck Race Course, now an obscured landscape, on the outskirts of Savannah, Georgia. 436 enslaved persons from the Butler plantations near Darien were sold in an event remembered as “The Weeping Time.” Despite the prevalence of historic monuments in the U.S. South, memorials to slavery are rare or recent arrivals. Not until 2008 did the city of Savannah and the Georgia Historical Society place a marker near the site of the sale. In this essay, Kwesi DeGraft-Hanson examines how this once hidden landscape can be re-imagined into Savannah’s historic memory through archival research, oral history, physical observations of the landscape, and the art of mapmaking.
The Weeping Time
This is amazing; a must-read. For a short time in college, I worked at the Savannah Visitor’s Center. Mostly, people wanted to know which square the Forrest Gump bench was located on (answer: none of them), what cemetery the Bird Girl from Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil was in (answer: none of them), and where they could find a Shoney’s (answer: What.). Only once did anyone ever ask me where slaves were traded. I had no idea. One of my coworkers, an older, moneyed Savannah native, interjected. “We didn’t have a slave trade in Savannah,” she said, archly. “You’re thinking of Charleston.”
No wonder it took until 2008 for the city to commemorate Weeping Time. Jesus fuck.