Enslaved John & Betsy Butler's descendants' homecoming
Organized by: KWESI DEGRAFT-HANSON
The actual amount raised!!!
February 11, 2016
On March 2nd and 3rd, 1859, the largest slave sale recorded in America took place at the Ten Broeck horse racecourse near Savannah, Georgia. (Read more about it Here.) Dubbed “The Weeping Time,” it involved the selling of 429 enslaved persons from two plantations in Georgia—the Butler Island rice plantation, near Darien, and the Hampton cotton plantation on nearby St. Simons Island. Both were started circa 1793 by Major Pierce Butler (1744-1822), South Carolina’s first United States senator, and, a signer of the U.S. Constitution. Sixty-six years later, it was his grandson, Pierce Mease Butler (1810-1867), who authorized the Weeping Time slave sale on the eve of the American Civil War. On the first day of the slave sale, March 2nd, 1859, John and Betsy, an enslaved couple, were sold with their two infant children, Kate and Violet, seemingly into oblivion. In 2004, Annette Holmes, an African American woman living in California, watching a PBS documentary, Africans in America, heard mention there of the Butler slave sale in Georgia. Because her Grandma Henrietta Cox’s maiden name was Butler (and she was from Louisiana), an intrigued Annette went online, and, using Ancestry.com and the U.S. Federal Census of Louisiana, traced her ancestry—back, incredibly, to John and Betsy! Annette and fifty of her family members (all descendants and relatives of John and Betsy) want to come to Georgia to see the old Butler plantations where their ancestors hailed, and to visit the site in Savannah where they were sold from. See Annette's video from a few years ago, posted Here.
I am a researcher whose dissertation work on Hidden Landscapes and People of Slavery allowed me, fortuitously, to find out about Annette in 2011. I initially invited her to come to Georgia, and offered that she could stay with my family, and that I would be honored to chauffeur her to her ancestral landscapes. After four years, she has accepted—and fifty family members want to come along! (Read more about that Here.) They are flying from California to Georgia in July, 2015, and I am helping to raise funds to pay for their hotel stay for a week, and a full coach bus to tour them from Atlanta to Roswell (started by Roswell King, Sr., a Butler overseer), to Darien, to St. Simons Island, to Savannah, and back to Atlanta. All will stay from July 27th-August 1st; majority return home, and five family members will stay on through August 6th when they return. For the duration of this homecoming, the family will make speaking appearances at local universities and historical societies, and grant interviews on local and national radio, and more. This homecoming is a century and a half in the making; it is important not just for Annette and her family, but indeed for all Georgians, all African Americans, all Americans, all Africans and Europeans, and, yes, all of us earth citizens. Please help us turn The Weeping Time into The Joyful Time.
This cause is important on many levels. First, it allows a contemporary American family whose members have recently discovered their ties to the largest slave sale in recorded American history to cross the continent to come and reconcile with this poignant history. It is at once painful and exciting, but most importantly, it allows healing and some measure of closure for this family. This story highlights and showcases this extended family’s love, hope, endurance and perseverance, through slavery to freedom. Beyond this family, this redemptive story is the story of many African Americans, many who will be inspired by Annette’s family history, and will seek their own genealogy and embrace their full heritage. All of us, sometimes, and some of us, all the time, have ambivalent feelings about those who were enslaved, often feeling shame because of it. Though slavery is indeed a national shame, there is nothing shameful about the people who were enslaved— these were people of extraordinary strength, faith, dignity, and resilience; people that we all should honor. Finally, I believe this homecoming of Annette and her family is an important opportunity for all Georgians, all Southerners, and indeed all Americans to celebrate a true story of recovery—a recoupment of family history, with all its sordidness and excellence. It shows the best of the human spirit. It is also an opportunity for much needed dialogues encompassing slavery and freedom that can and will foster redemption, racial reconciliation, and healing.
The money raised will go exclusively for the hotel accommodations, ground (coach bus) transportation, a couple of catered meals, and still and video photography to capture the entire homecoming visit towards a documentary. Below is a breakdown of how the funds will be utilized:
Expected Budget (possible financial expenses, Butler Homecoming Trip):
1. Hotel Accommodations for fifty (50) people for one night (July 27, 2015) in Atlanta (family will sleep 2 -3 persons per room, for a maximum of 20 rooms)
20 rooms @ $150/room/night = $3000
2. Coach bus transportation from Atlanta to Roswell, Darien, Brunswick, St. Simons Island, Savannah, and back to Atlanta (July 28th, 29th, and 30th, 2015) = $10,000
3. Hotel Accommodations for fifty (50) people for one night (July 28, 2015) in Brunswick/Darien/St. Simons Island area (family will sleep 2 -3 persons per room, for a maximum of 20 rooms)
20 rooms @ $100/room/night = $2000
4. Hotel Accommodations for fifty (50) people for one night (July 29, 2015) in Savannah (family will sleep 2 -3 persons per room, for a maximum of 20 rooms)
20 rooms @ $100/room/night = $2000
5. Hotel Accommodations for fifty (50) people for three nights (July 30, 31, and August 1, 2015) in Atlanta (family will sleep 2 -3 persons per room, for a maximum of 20 rooms)
20 rooms @ $150/room/for 3 nights = $9000
Majority of family return to California
6. Hotel Accommodations for five (5) people for five nights (August 2 through August 6 2015) in Atlanta and or Charleston, SC or similar (family will sleep 2 -3 persons per room, for a maximum of 2 rooms)
2 rooms @ $150/room/night for 5 nights = $1500
7. Food, estimated = $2500
8. Photography crew (video and still photos) = $15000
9. Incidentals / Miscellaneous = $2500
10. GRAND TOTAL = $ 47,500
The budget is just shy of $50,000.
Kwesi J. DeGraft-Hanson
Kwesi J. DeGraft-Hanson, Ph.D.
firstname.lastname@example.org 678-524-7284(c); 770-945-4513(h)