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The Weeping Time
Memory and the Largest Slave Auction in American History

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  • Author: Anne C. Bailey, Binghamton University, State University of New York
  • Date Published: October 2017
  • availability: In stock
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781316643488

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About the Authors
  • In 1859, at the largest recorded slave auction in American history, over 400 men, women, and children were sold by the Butler Plantation estates. This book is one of the first to analyze the operation of this auction and trace the lives of slaves before, during, and after their sale. Immersing herself in the personal papers of the Butlers, accounts from journalists that witnessed the auction, genealogical records, and oral histories, Anne C. Bailey weaves together a narrative that brings the auction to life. Demonstrating the resilience of African American families, she includes interviews from the living descendants of slaves sold on the auction block, showing how the memories of slavery have shaped people's lives today. Using the auction as the focal point, The Weeping Time is a compelling and nuanced narrative of one of the most pivotal eras in American history, and how its legacy persists today.

    • One of the first books to trace the lives of those involved in a major slave auction, connecting this event in African American history to American history in general and the public at large
    • Brings home key themes in major periods of American history, including the Civil War, emancipation, reconstruction
    • Includes interviews with modern day descendants of slaves who were sold at auction
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    • Honourable mention, 2018 NYASA Book Award, New York African Studies Association

    Reviews & endorsements

    ‘Here is a graceful chronicle of a wretched moment in history. This is a work of restoration, culling a crucial narrative from the silences of the past. But most crucially, this is a restoration of the humanity to those enslaved black people who were so commonly denied it.' William Cobb, Columbia University

    ‘The Weeping Time offers a remarkable prism through which to explore the human dimensions of slavery and reconstruction in the American South. Using the March 1859 auction of some 440 slaves in Savannah, Georgia as a focal point, Anne C. Bailey explores the history of the slave owning Butler family, the history of the Butler plantations on the Georgia Sea Islands, and the post-slavery experiences of the slaves sold at that auction to illuminate broader themes of race in American history. She offers a moving and engaging social history of an understudied aspect of American slavery.' Thomas Dublin, Co-editor, Women and Social Movements in the United States and Bartle Distinguished Professor, State University of New York, Binghamton

    ‘Bailey's engrossing saga reminds us that the auction block was a crucial shared experience that shaped the consciousness of millions of African Americans. The Weeping Time is about the largest slave auction in American history, but it is also a remarkably vivid story of individual lives forever transformed when people are treated as property.' Clayborne Carson, Stanford University, California

    ‘A meticulously researched and beautifully told story of slavery. Bailey makes us see and feel the experiences of those enslaved on the Butler plantation and their descendants.' Mary Frances Berry, Geraldine Segal Professor of American Social Thought, Professor of History, Professor of Africana Studies, University of Pennsylvania

    ‘The black body on slavery's auction block was at once commerce, exhibit, and spectacle; it was also the stuff of mourning, memorialization and mobilization. Such is the grand and grave subject of this absorbing book on the mother of all slave auctions in the United States, a tale told with verve and an eye for detail. A bedrock work.' Michael West, Binghamton University, State University of New York

    ‘Bailey has written a powerful study of African chattel slaves sold at huge profit, on the eve of the Civil War, to brokers from New York to Louisiana. Her approach to the experience of the auction block, like her portrayals of the modern black family, intent today on assembling fragments of their fractured past, is both interdisciplinary and humane. This outstanding contribution to understanding American capitalism should be compulsory reading in American history courses.' Herbert P. Bix, Emeritus Professor of History and Sociology, Binghamton University, State University of New York

    'The Weeping Time: Memory and the Largest Slave Auction in American History chronicles the sale of 436 men, women and children from the Butler Plantation of Georgia's Sea Islands in 1859. … Remarkably, Bailey has been able to trace the historical record of 50 people from 10 families sold during the Butler auction. … As a historian, Bailey is determined to keep lifting that blanket of silence and uncover the humanity of people it obscures.' Jim Higgins, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

    'Bailey’s powerful volume not only recounts America’s largest slave auction, but resurrects personalities long forgotten. Historians who seek a deeper understanding of all that slavery entailed in antebellum America and who desire a clearer understanding of the resiliency of African Americans both during and after the Civil War will find Bailey’s study not only revealing but inspirational.' Jonation A. Noyalas, Civil War News

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    Product details

    • Date Published: October 2017
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781316643488
    • length: 206 pages
    • dimensions: 229 x 153 x 13 mm
    • weight: 0.3kg
    • contains: 12 b/w illus. 1 map
    • availability: In stock
  • Table of Contents

    Part I. The Breach:
    1. The weeping time
    2. The auction and American history
    Part II. Linked Fates:
    3. Pierce Butler and his grandfather's legacy
    4. Mr. and Mrs. Butler
    5. More than 'hands': African rhythms and work on the Butler plantations
    6. Faith on the Butler estates
    7. A family divided
    a nation divided
    Part III. Healing the Breach:
    8. Reconstruction and reconnecting threads
    9. Out of the silence: descendants restore family names
    Epilogue: History and the democratization of memory

  • Author

    Anne C. Bailey, Binghamton University, State University of New York
    Anne C. Bailey is an Associate Professor of History and Africana Studies at Binghamton University, State University of New York.


    • Honourable mention, 2018 NYASA Book Award, New York African Studies Association
    • Winner, 2018 Award for Excellence in Advocacy, Georgia Historical Records Advisory Council

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