The thematic of American Black slavery in the USA has always been important to me since I was little and that was why I requested at Cambridge University Press The Weeping Time Memory and the Largest Slave Auction in America History by Anne C. Bailey, published last October 2017, ISBN: 9781108140393, price 19,90.
We all know a lot of stories of Black Americans imported and then sold as beasts to owners of large plantations in the South and in the North of the USA.
What this book does wonderfully well, with pathos, sentiment and with a captivating, engaging narrative writing-style is this: to tell the largest auction of black people, 440 from the so-called Butler Plantation Estates trying to discover what happened emotionally to most of these families divided sometimes forever because of this event or united vice-versa thanks to smart actions like for example a wedding the day before the auction.
The Weeping Time opens with the auction on March 2 and 3 1859 of 436 people in total including 30 babies to people from New York to Louisiana. This auction largely publicized in Southern's magazines and newsmagazines. Butler, who had inherited these properties was constricted to sell most of his slaves because of financial problems. A difficult separation this one for people who felt a strong story and connection with that land. It was a story of habits, life, a land that they loved, cemeteries where they buried their loved ones. It was like to cut their roots.
I don't know why I thought ironically that this auction was a sort of "swan song", the end of a system known since there and brought at the extreme consequences. It was 1859 and wild winds of war were whispering everywhere.
Later this book will discover how it was and it is possible to find out the lost origins for the newest black Americans thanks to researches including the use of DNA and specialized websites.
That auction a trauma removed from the mind of the ancestors,some young black people didn't know and maybe still don't know their oldest family history. No one of their ancestors felt the desire of remarking that at some point for some of them a terrible destiny changed forever their existences.
The history of these slaves, men and women, girls and boys in love, babies, children or old people was simple: they were all born, grown-up in the Butler's estates.
That one was their history.
A place that they could call home.
They were slaves, they were not treated well but that one was what they could call home.
It wasn't a case, as wrote by the author, that some of them, seven returned home once they were set free and slavery abolished.
There is to say that once black people became free they didn't know at first how to re-organize their reality and their new condition as free men disoriented them.
Butler was constricted to ask for Chinese workers because black ones didn't want to work anymore for him as in the past. Butler had plantations of rice and cotton.
Wonderful reconstruction of Butler's family, the humus where Pierce Mease Butler grew up in, his wife Fanny Kemble and their fights regarding slavery, this man wasn't a common one, but part of the Founding Fathers, although he didn't neglect the use of black people in his many properties. Mr. Butler lived in Philadelphia but his business and his estates included the South of the USA.
Abraham Lincoln started to set free black people in 1863 remarking with more power his words with a new amendment in 1865. Slavery abolished only after his death.
Highly recommended to everyone.
I thank Cambridge University Press for the physical copy of this book.
Anna Maria Polidori