Black History Month On The Local Take: The Weeping Time

Feb 13, 2016

Saturday morning, February 13 at 7:00 a.m. on The Local Take, Jazz 91.9 WCLK, I speak with Dr. Kwesi DeGraft-Hanson about his research into The Weeping Time.  Dr. DeGraft-Hanson, a landscape architect who stumbled onto the story of The Weeping Time while exploring and investigating tabby concrete, a building material that uses oyster shells and was used by enslaved people.   His research took him to Butler Island, the home of a 1500 acre rice plantation in Coastal Georgia that was owned by the family of Major Pierce Butler, considered a founding father of our nation for his work as a delegate to the Continental Convention from South Carolina and a signatory to the Constitution.

Dr. DeGraft-Hanson explains that if you've driven on I-95 from Georgia to Florida or on US Coastal Highway 17 you've crossed over the Butler Island plantation home. As he continued to research this place, he found two books The Journal of a Residence on a Georgian Plantation 1838-1839 by Frances "Fannie" Kemble and Major Butler's Legacy - Five Generations of a Slave Holding Family by Malcolm Bell.  In Malcolm Bell's book a chapter entitled SLAVES indicated that the enslaved people on the Butler plantations held fast to their African traditions. The book had a listings of slave names and the name ABA is Ghanaian for female born on Thursday and this was his daughter's name. Then he found his son's name, his brother's name and his name.  He knew these enslaved people were from Ghana. 

Dr. DeGraft-Hanson shares his relationship to slavery before finding those names and how his life in Ghana where slave castles and forts are part of the landscape, but not part of everyday life. His school lessons were from a European perspective that didn't explore the institution of slavery in depth. 

As his research into this plantation continued he learned the story of The Weeping Time. On March 2 and 3, 1859 the largest recorded sell of enslaved humans occurred at the former Ten Broeck Racecourse in Savannah, GA. Dr. DeGraft-Hanson shares with us that this was known as The Weeping Time because it began to rain on the evening of March 1, 1859 and didn't stop until the last enslaved person was sold on March 3, 1859.  Our ancestors claimed that the heavens wept for their loss. The sale was publicized in newspapers from Mobile, AL to Vicksburg, VA.  A slave catalog was produced that listed 436 people for sale. This include men, women, children and 30 infants. Before the sale the enslaved had been valued at more than $500,000.00. 

Dr. Kwesi explains his background, although he is from Ghana his family has a history of enslaved people from Jamaica who made their way back to Ghana's "Gold Coast" to live free.  Moving forward, he explains that he wants a memorial to commemorate The Weeping Time, he explains why this is important.  He has recently launched a non-profit organization called OCEANS1 an Organization to Commemorate Enlsaved African American Slaves Nationally.

To learn more Dr. DeGraft Hanson's research on The Weeping Time