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.
Many Episcopalians who attended General Convention in 2006 saw the first cut of this film. It is a moving story that ranges from Rhode Island to Africa as her family tries to come to terms with its complicity in slavery.
As the film recounts, the DeWolf name has been honored through generations, both in the family's hometown of Bristol, R.I., and on the national stage. Family members have been prominent citizens: professors, writers, legislators, philanthropists, Episcopal priests and bishops. If the DeWolfs' slave trading was mentioned at all, it was in an offhand way, with reference to scoundrels and rapscallions.
The film is scheduled for 10 p.m. June 24. Check your local schedule for times in your area.
Read more here.
Interview with filmaker, Katrina Browne here.
More on another member of the family in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer here.
...Hale, a Superfund project manager with the Environmental Protection Agency in downtown Seattle. She was curious and felt compelled to explore the moral questions Browne raised. But it was not a trip she undertook lightly.
"I felt the heaviness of it," Hale said. "It felt complicated. I was kind of ashamed to tell people where I was going and what I was doing. It's not something you wear with pride."
Viewers will share that sense of disquiet as Browne's quiet, somber storytelling lays bare the tangible horrors of the slave trade and the extent of Northern involvement. It's impossible not to be moved, for example, by the sight of Cape Castle, Ghana, where a grim, windowless dungeon held 1,000 captives at a time for delivery to slave ships.
Equally powerful is the effect on the DeWolf descendants, who grow frayed and emotional as the trip wears on. At one point in the film, Hale dissolves into tears, fearing the group is just a bunch of "pathetic" white people trying to absolve their guilt.