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Dear Baileyblog Readers,

Today is the 162nd anniversary of the event called The Weeping time -the largest slave auction in American history.

I hope you will take a moment to consider the 400+ enslaved people who were separated from their families on March 2 and 3 1859 in Savannah, Georgia.

I am sharing with you a poignant poem that captured the tragedy of these days.  This poem reminds me of a question I was asked recently about some of the lessons from this incident.  There are many, but one that keeps coming to mind is the principle of profit over people.

 

The Slave Sale

by Edna Dean Proctor

Who would not be in Savannah to-day?

Out by the Race-course, — there is the Play, —

Tragedies, comedies, all together

Shaking hands in the wild March weather.

There are hundreds of actors, the programmes tell,

And some, at each scene are to say farewell;

Trust me, ‘t will be a marvellous Play,

For this is Pierce Butler’s ” Benefit ” day.

Mark them. See with what eager eyes

They watch and wait till the curtain rise:

Some from the rice-fields broad and green

That stretch the swamp and the shore between;

And some from St. Simon’s Isle, that lies

A league away where the land-breeze dies, —

St. Simon’s Isle where the sea-wave flows,

And the fairest and finest cotton grows.

Parents and children, every one,

Have toiled for others since life begun;

But then each man at his cabin door

Could sit in peace when his work was o’er,

And the same roof covered them all, though slaves,

And the same moon rose on their fathers’ graves,

And they laughed and sung and hoped to rest

One day in the soil which their young feet prest.

What does it mean that they tremble here,

Waiting the call of the auctioneer?

What does it mean! ‘T is a common tale, —

Their master’s funds were about to fail;

Mister Pierce Butler has debts to pay,

And this, good friends, is the only way.

Generous souls! For his lordly sake

They ought to be willing their hearts should break.

And rejoice to be anywhere, anyhow sold,

To fill his coffers with needful gold!

For what is the grief of such as these

Compared to a gentleman’s moneyed ease?

And then, when the little arrangement’s made.

And he feels quite sure ‘t was a gaining trade,

He ‘ll give them a dollar! — that will heal

Every sorrow a slave can feel.

Scores for the master and one for his tool, —

Thus he ‘ll follow the Golden Rule

That reads, ” To others I ‘ll do what I see

Will bring the most money to mine and me. ”

Eleven o’clock and the sale begins, —

Now the best man is the man who wins

Hand and brain at the lowest price

For his fields of cotton and cane and rice.

Buyers are there from the far Southwest

To the Georgian isles on the ocean’s breast,

And from Florida jungles, gay with vines,

North to the woods of the Carolines;

And higher and higher the bidding goes,

And wilder, without, the March wind blows,

As one and another, faint with fear,

Are led to the block their doom to hear.

There is Elisha with children and wife,

O how anxiously watching the strife!

A mild-faced man in the crowd they spy, —

Can he not, will he not all of them buy?

And he weeps and pleads, but the man denies,

For he sees where a closer bargain lies,

And their courage sinks and their tears come fast;

But what of this? When the sale is past

They ‘ll have a dollar! and that will heal

Every sorrow a slave can feel.

Scores for the master and one for his tool, —

Thus is followed the Golden Rule

That reads, ” To others I ‘ll do what I see

Will bring the most money to mine and me. ”

The wind blew strong and the rain was cold,

And Daphney’s babe was but two weeks old,

And to shield them both from the driving storm

A shawl is over her trembling form:

” Off with it! ” ” What is the matter? ” they shout,

And the jest and the oath are passed about

Till she droops and shivers and wonders why

It was not hers and her child’s to die.

But what of this? When the sale is done,

And the papers are signed and the profits won,

She ‘ll have a dollar! and that will heal

Every sorrow a slave can feel.

Scores for the master and one for his tool, —

Thus is followed the Golden Rule

That reads, ” To others I ‘ll do what I see

Will bring the most money to mine and me. ”

Jeffrey has neither father nor mother,

But Jeffrey and Dorcas love each other

With a love that never can change or fail,

And he tells his master the simple tale,

And begs him to buy her with earnest tone, —

But Dorcas cannot be sold alone;

He goes to the swamp-lands, drearily parted,

And she to the cotton-fields, broken-hearted!

But what of this? ‘T is a trifling thing;

Did they not excellent prices bring?

Give them a dollar! — that will heal

Every sorrow a slave can feel.

Scores for the master and one for his tool, —

Thus is followed the Golden Rule

That reads, ” To others I ‘ll do what I see

Will bring the most money to mine and me. ”

Sadly they follow them, one and all,

Till none are left in the farthest stall.

The Play is over; the farewells said;

The curtain dropped and the actors fled;

And the stars shine out, and the breeze goes by,

Sweet with the bloom of the fruit-trees nigh.

A hundred cabins are dark and still,

And the wind and the moonlight may work their will,

For those who sat by the open door

Will never return to their shelter more,

Nor dance on the lawn when day is past,

Nor sleep by their fathers’ graves at last.

But this is nothing; their master paid

For all the ruin and wreck he made;

Each had a dollar! and that will heal

Every sorrow a slave can feel.

Scores for the master and one for his tool, —

Thus he followed the Golden Rule

That reads, ” To others I ‘ll do what I see

Will bring the most money to mine and me. ”

God of the Weak and the Poor! how long

Shall their cries be drowned in the victor’s song,

And body and brain and heart be sold

For the white man’s ease and the white man’s gold?

Hast Thou not heard them? Dost Thou not say

There shall come, at the last, a grander Play,

When Thy searching eye shall the actors see,

And Love the coin of the realm shall be?

Woe to those who ‘ve but gold that day

When vengeance is Thine, and Thou wilt repay!

 

JOIN US FOR A VIRTUAL MEMORIAL THIS WEEKEND

You are cordially invited to participate in our 2021 Weeping Time Commemoration in honor of the over 400 enslaved people sold at the Weeping Time 162 years ago, on March 2nd and 3rd 1859. 
 
Thank you,
The Weeping Time Commemoration Committee
Savannah, Darien, St. Simons Island, Brunswick, & Atlanta Georgia
 
*** Facebook and YouTube links below.  Please widely share the links below,
The Weeping Time Facebook Page link: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCf8W-FDdRXDBrtuWc4E9iQA
The Weeping Time Commemoration YouTube Channel link: The Weeping Time Commemoration Primus
Find Anne C. Bailey's non-fiction book : The Weeping Time: Memory and the Largest Slave Auction in American History on Amazon.

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