Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Traces of the Trade

Last night I watched a powerful documentary film about slavery and its ongoing legacy in America. It aired on PBS' P.O.V. and is entitled Traces of the Trade: A Story from the Deep North. Here's an excerpt of the film's synopsis from the P.O.V. website:

Traces of the Trade: A Story from the Deep North is a unique and disturbing journey of discovery into the history and "living consequences" of one of the United States' most shameful episodes — slavery. In this bicentennial year of the U.S. abolition of the slave trade, one might think the tragedy of African slavery in the Americas has been exhaustively told. Katrina Browne thought the same, until she discovered that her slave-trading ancestors from Rhode Island were not an aberration. Rather, they were just the most prominent actors in the North's vast complicity in slavery, buried in myths of Northern innocence.

Browne — a direct descendant of Mark Anthony DeWolf, the first slaver in the family — took the unusual step of writing to 200 descendants, inviting them to journey with her from Rhode Island to Ghana to Cuba and back, recapitulating the Triangle Trade that made the DeWolfs the largest slave-trading family in U.S. history. Nine relatives signed up. Traces of the Trade: A Story from the Deep North is Browne's spellbinding account of the journey that resulted.

In addition to exploding the myth of Northern innocence, the film also touches on the Episcopal Church's complicity in the slave trade.

I haven't yet checked to see when the film will air again, but in the meantime, you can watch a trailer for Traces of the Trade at the film's website.

You can read an excerpt from the book Inheriting the Trade by Tom DeWolf.

And you can watch an interview with the filmmaker Katrina Browne, and also read a P.O.V. interview with her.

No comments: