Memory  /  Narrative

The Weeping Time

A forgotten history of the largest slave auction ever on American soil

Two miles west of downtown Savannah, Georgia, sits a historical marker in the center of a small plot of a fenced in city park. The triangular park measures not more than a fifth of an acre. The surrounding neighborhood is one of the most distressed and depressed sections of the city….

…The marker was dedicated on March 3, 2008, 149 years after the slave auction occurred, and at the commemoration ceremony then-mayor Otis Johnson—only the second African-American to hold that office—offered up a short speech honoring the enslaved men and women whose labor helped build the oldest city in the state of Georgia. At the ceremony a local man handed out dirt from Nigeria to be sprinkled around the marker and Mayor Johnson poured water over the dirt to consecrate the ground.

And that's it for the city's commemoration of the event known as the Weeping Time. Contrast that with the towering monument to the Confederate dead that has stood for over a century smack in the center of one of the city's largest public parks.

The Weeping Time acquired its name colloquially, by the slaves and their descendants, because of reports that the sky opened up and poured down rain for the full two days of the auction. It was said that the heavens were weeping for the inhumanity that was being committed.

The event wasn't just notable because of the size of the auction. In 1859 the country was on the verge of a national bloodbath, and the historic threads that weave through the story of the Weeping Time are so far-reaching and remarkable, it's perplexing that more hasn't been written or remembered about this time.

View on The Atlantic