Commemorating Hidden Landscapes of Slavery linked by EnslavedAfricans and their American Descendants from the Butler Plantationsin Georgia Restricted; Files Only

DeGraft-Hanson, Kwesi John (2013)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/gm80hv51s?locale=en
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Abstract

This dissertation project is simultaneously about people and place--enslaved Africans and their American descendants, and the American places they inhabited. My focus is three currently silent, hidden or erased landscapes of slavery--two no-longer extant antebellum era plantations in Georgia that were owned by the Butler family of South Carolina, Georgia and Pennsylvania, and a former racecourse in Savannah that was the venue, in 1859, for a large sale of four hundred and twenty-nine Butler enslaved; the largest single slave sale recorded in American history. The main questions were:

1) Is it possible to reify places that have been significantly changed, and which have few vestiges of their past? and,

2) Is it possible to recreate some of the hidden narratives of the former enslaved people who left little or no written records?

This dissertation argues that landscapes are archives that can be "read;" that all places are an accumulation--a layering of natural and human deposits, constructions and concomitant erasures; which understanding allows that landscape can be deciphered by literally and figuratively peeling back its stratums.

Using an interdisciplinary methodology and reviewing pertinent African American history, literature, and culture, in relation to these hidden landscapes and people of slavery, the dissertation successfully recreates the spatial layouts of, and reimages, these places, and proffers them as sites of commemoration for the former enslaved who lived, worked and died (or were sold from) there. The project also revealed the genealogy of some of the enslaved Butlers, and locates their ancestral home among the Akan of West Africa. Methodologies employed included archival research, focused on locating and analyzing maps, deeds, wills, letters, and pertinent plantation documents; and ethnographic research which included interrogating landscapes--interpreting and creating maps; and interviewing descendants of former Butler slaves. The results of this project provide a guide for the unearthing of similar hidden landscapes and people of slavery, and fills a gap in the historiography that is trying to find the African origins of formerly enslaved Africans, as well as how to interpret former plantation landscapes, many of which, currently have no traces of, especially, their slave settlements.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgements

Chapter 1: Silent, Hidden and Erased:

Reconstructing Landscapes and People of Slavery……………………1

Landscapes of Slavery……………. ………………………………….………2

Project Goals…………………………………………………………..………4

Conceptual Framework..………………………………………………………8

Methodology………………………………………………………………....29

Chapter Descriptions………………………………………………………....34

Chapter 2: Hampton Plantation:

Reconstructing a Cotton Landscape of Slavery…..………………………41

Chapter 3: Butler Island Plantation:

Reconstructing a Rice Landscape of Slavery………………………….….…107

Chapter 4: Savannah's Ten Broeck Racecourse:

Reconstructing a Slave Auction Landscape of Slavery……..….…………174

Chapter 5: Re: Families enslaved on the former Butler Plantations:

Reconstructing Genealogies.………………………………………………….…....213

Chapter 6: Conclusion: "It ain't over"……………………………………….…….290

Figures:……………………..…………………………………………….………..302

Appendix A: Built Structures on Butler Island Plantation, circa 1838-1866……...407

Appendix B: Landscape Plants on Butler Island Plantation, ca. 1838-1866...….....408

Appendix C: Probable African names on Butler Plantations; Lists……………….409

Appendix D: Ghanaian (Akan) Names originating from days of the week……….410

Appendix E: Butler Plantations enslaved person names and African origins.…….411

Appendix F: Twenty lists of enslaved persons from the Butler plantations……….412

Bibliography…………………………………………………………....……….…414

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