Today in History: Slave Auction

A slave auction at the south

Today in History–March 3–the Library of Congress features the largest recorded slave auction in U.S. history, held on this date in 1859. Referred to as  “The Weeping Time”, the two-day auction of 436 men, women, and children formerly held by Pierce M. Butler was held pay off Butler’s financial losses from the crash of 1857-58 as well as his gambling debts. A journalist’s account, What Became of the Slaves on a Georgia Plantation?, includes vivid descriptions of the auction and many of the families described in the’ report had appeared years earlier in a series of letters written by British actress and author Frances Ann Kemble. Learn more about this tragic day in U.S. history by visiting the Today in History section, then clicking the links below.

Mr. Butler’s Slave Auction” Burlington Free Press 25 March 1859

Great Auction-Sale of Slaves at Savannah, GeorgiaThe Atlantic Monthly Volume 4, Issue 23, September 1859

What became of the slaves on a Georgia plantation? : great auction sale of slaves, at Savannah, Georgia March 2d & 3d, 1859 1863

More stories about “The Weeping Time”

The Slave-Auction by John Theophilus Kramer 1859

U.S. newspaper articles mentioning slave auctions

Slave auction image set

Negro sale primary source set

Bill of Sale of Slaves October 5, 1786 Thomas Freeman

Cash! All persons that have slaves to dispose of, will do well by giving me a call, as I will give the highest price for men, women, & children. Any person that wishes to sell, will call at Hill’s tavern, or at Shannon Hill for me, and any information they want will be promptly attended to 1835

Related resources