Weeping Time Light Commemorative Project

 

PROJECT DETAILS:

The Butler Island Weeping Time Light Commemorative 2022 Programming will be programming in advance and during the 2022 Weeping Time Commemoration. This program will enhance the education of the local communities, inclusive of the stories of the Weeping Time and the enslaved on Butler Island. For many years the local school systems did not tell the story of the Weeping Time and the enslaved on Butler Island. As a result, many generations are unaware of the Weeping Time, the largest sale of the enslaved in American history, and that this milestone happened with enslaved people from their community.
In the 1920s, Colonel TL Huston bought the property, and tore down many of the 19th century buildings, and created a cattle and lettuce farming operation. Aside from the rice chimney and dykes, the buildings that remain today are from the Huston era, and are in need of preservation. Two major transportation routes run through Butler Island Interstate 95 and US Hwy 17. The historic structures can be seen from US Hwy 17. Most locals take US Hwy 17 to work in nearby Brunswick and drive daily through Butler Island, and do not know the history. Lack of signage has also contributed to the unawareness of the stories of the enslaved and complete history of the site.
The only historic signage for over 50 years on the site was to the plantation-owning Butler family until 2019, when Georgia Historical Society placed a marker to the Enslaved. The only structures left from the time period of the Weeping Time are the rice chimneys and series of rice dykes. Hampton Plantation on St. Simons Island is a neighborhood, and Ten Broeck Race Course in Savannah, site of the sale, is partly a school, and under development. With the visible built environment of the plantation era of Butler Island removed, lack of local education became lack of statewide historical education, and last year made a pathway for HB 906 during the 2020 legislative session. This bill would have allowed the sale of over 330,000 acres of Georgia Heritage Properties of which Butler Island was chosen to be the example for the necessity of the bill. Due to a grassroots movement, the bill, which was only voted down by 7 State Representatives did not pass out of committee in the Senate.
As such, Butler Island is the best site for programming and education for this national milestone, as it and Hampton Plantation on St. Simons Island were the homes the largest sale of enslaved people in the United States. A vast majority of the humans sold came from Butler Island. With the little evidence remaining of their built environment, 436 solar lights have been placed in their commemoration on the property, visible from US Hwy 17. These lights turn on at sunset.
The program will consist of 2 speakers, educating about the Weeping Time and African-American Genealogy of the Enslaved at Butler and their descendants, and a workshop for those wanting to explore any connections they may have to Butler Island. The genealogy speaker will be a Butler Island descendant, and the workshop will be hosted by descendants and local genealogists.
We will also host a series of 6 public tours on Butler Island, 2 at sunset, with the individual stories of the enslaved for whom the solar lights represent. The tours will also be hosted by Butler Island descendants and local historians.
The speaker series and a minimum of one tour will also be offered on zoom/facebook live to allow greater participation beyond the availability to travel to McIntosh County. As tourism is a major industry for Darien and McIntosh County, if travel has resumed, in person attendance will also be encouraged.
In Conclusion, we will host the light commemoration March 2022 to be included in the Weeping Time Virtual Commemorative 2022.
 

PLANNING TIMELINE:
Planning meetings will occur the first Monday of every month until March 2022 with reports on:
Planning and Implementation
Communications and marketing
Grant updates
Permits / Approval
Monday meetings in 2021 July - Form Joint Marketing Committee with members of the Coalition, descendants, historic organizations, and LAHS.
Monday meetings in 2021 Aug Request City Permits for 3 Walking Tours in Oct/ Nov and 3 in Feb/ March for Butler Island
January 2022- Speaker -- The Weeping Time
February 2022 -- Descendant Speaker on African American Genealogy, focusing on Butler Island Enslaved and their Descendants
March 2022 Incorporate Butler Island site into Annual Weeping Time Virtual Commemorative
April 2022 Program Wrap Up, Outcome Synopsis

PROJECT GOALS:
6 Tours at 90 minutes each. Participant goal is 20 attendees. Outcome: Increased Knowledge of the history of Butler Island Plantation, the Weeping Time, Enslaved and their Descendants, Gullah Geechee Culture, and current preservation issues.

Speaker Series 1 60 minutes. Participant goal is 25 attendees Outcome: A deeper understanding of the events leading to the Weeping Time, the largest sale of human beings in America, and the significance of this national milestone

Speaker Series 2 45 minutes Speaker, 45 minutes workshop. 25 attendees Butler Island Enslaved and their Descendants incredible achievements and contributions to their communities. Outcome: Knowledge of Butler Island Enslaved past the Weeping Time and Equipping attendees with tools to research their own connections.

Weeping Time Commemorative on Butler Island. Filming Programming at Butler Island at Sunset. Outcome: Including more events on site for a virtual commemoration in 2022.