Anne C. Bailey

Sep 20, 2017

The Weeping Time

Memory and the Largest Slave Auction in American History

Cambridge University Press 2017

purchase at Contemporary conversations and debates over Confederate monuments underline how memory-making and the legacies of U.S. slavery and the Civil War remains raw and highly contested in public discourse. In her new book, The Weeping Time: Memory and the Largest Slave Auction in American History (Cambridge University Press, 2017), Anne C. Bailey, an associate professor of history and Africana studies at Binghamton University SUNY, tells the story of the largest slave auction in U.S. history. In March 1859, the Butler Plantation estates in Georgia sold approximately 400 enslaved persons in a two-day period. Bailey uncovers the lives of enslaved people before and after their sale at the auction, offering a gripping narrative of the event and the people involved through the use of oral histories, journalistic accounts of the auction, and the papers of the Butlers. Bailey's book pushes readers to think about how the traditional historical narrative treats slavery, specifically by considering slavery's ongoing impact on modern-day descendants and their families. In this episode of New Books in African American Studies, Anne Bailey discusses The Weeping Time and the role of the auction block in shaping the memory and meaning of slavery from the antebellum era to the present day. Bailey emphasizes the power of family in crafting the meaning of freedom in the Reconstruction era and beyond. She also discusses the importance of the democratization of memory and its influence in her current work. The Weeping Time presents the auction block as a lens through which to analyze this traumatic chapter in U.S. history as well as examine the resilience of enslaved people and their descendants in recovering familial bonds and histories.
Samantha Bryant is a Ph.D. candidate in history at University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Her research, writing, and teaching focuses on twentieth-century U.S. history, U.S. cultural history, African American history and politics, and gender and sexuality studies. She is currently working on her dissertation, which explores the tangled and contested history of a 1960s rape case that took place in her hometown of Lynchburg, Virginia. You can reach her at

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