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In 1859, one of the largest slave sales in US history took place at the Ten Broeck Race Course. This marker is not located at the actual location of the sale, as the race course is now the location of a lumber yard and elementary school. However, it is right down the road in a park that was built to remember the 436 slaves who were sold in what is known as "The Weeping Time." Pierce Mease Butler of Philadelphia sold 436 slaves for $303, 850 over two days to pay off his debts. Many families and friends were separated and sold to owners around the south. The Weeping Time name came as witnesses recounted that it rained the entire two days of the sale as "The heavens seemed to weep in empathy."


  • Slaves during the sale would fake ill when a master they did not like was inspecting them in an attempt to be bought by the kinder masters or to stay with their families.
  • Advertisement ran in The Savannah Republican, Tuesday, February 8, 1859.
  • Joseph Bryan's advertisement in The Savannah Daily Morning News, February 26, 1859.
  • The park containing the Weeping Time marker is one of the few historical sites that remember the slave history of the south.

In 1859, Pierce Mease Butler owned 919 slaves consisting of men and women of all ages. Butler was also the owner of large amounts of debt. He liked to gamble and had lost money investing in the stock market. In order to recoup his losses, Butler made the decision to sell 436 of his slaves. He would sale all of them at once in what would be the largest slave sale in Georgia history and one of the largest in American history. 

The sale took place at Ten Broeck Race Course a horse racing track in Savannah, Georgia. Butler would use a well known slave broker, Joseph Bryan. The slaves were held in horse stables leading up to the sale so that buyers could inspect them and advertisements for the sale were ran Monday through Saturday in the Georgian Newspapers. People came from all over the south to witness the sale and purchase human property. One newspaper wrote "For several days before the sale every hotel in Savannah was crowded with negro speculators from North and South Carolina, Virginia, Georgia, Alabama, and Louisiana, who had been attracted hither by the prospects of making good bargains. Nothing was heard for days, in the bar-rooms and public rooms, but talk of the great sale . . ."

The media covered the large event from both sides of the abolition argument. Anti-slavery newspaper writers called the sale "The Weeping Time" because of the sadness and anger it caused the slaves and because it rained for the entire duration of the sale. Reaction to the sale would be intense in the time leading up to the Civil War. 

Degraft-Hanson, Kwesi. Unearthing the Weeping Time:Savannah's Ten Broeck Race Course and 1859 Slave Sale. Southern Spaces. February 18, 2010. Accessed October 11, 2018. https://southernspaces.org/2010/unearthing-weeping-time-savannahs-ten-broeck-race-course-and-1859-slave-sale.

Largest Slave Sale in Georgia History. Historical Marker Database. . Accessed October 12, 2018. https://www.hmdb.org/marker.asp?marker=15838.

The Weeping Time. PBS. . Accessed October 10, 2018. https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aia/part4/4p2918.html.