Traces of the Trade is a movie about the unexpected - a documentary about one family's deep involvement in the slave trade.
During the 19th century, the DeWolf's, prominent citizens of Bristol Rhode Island, were the largest slave trading family in America. Even after the slave trade was outlawed in the US, the family broke that law by selling slaves from Africa into Cuba.
If you discovered this history in your family how would you respond? I can tell you what Katrina Browne did -and Tom DeWolf and 8 of their relatives. They began to explore this dark secret. They faced head-on the pain their ancestors inflicted on tens of thousands of innocent Africans.
They took a trek to Ghana. There they entered into dialogue with the Ghanaian people, attended a local festival, and toured a dungeon in which their family imprisoned Africans before shipping them into slavery.
They struggled with how to respond to the horror they felt and the pain they witnessed. There's no way for any of us to make up for the sins of our fathers or even for our own wrongdoings. However, being willing to face the anger of those we wronged is one thing we can do.
Traces of the Trade came to Hickory recently. After we watched this incredible documentary, Dain Perry (DeWolf descendant) and his wife, Constance Perry led us in a feeling-level discussion. A few of the emotions shared were anger, respect, skepticism, and shame.
It was a profound evening. The question that hit me hardest was this one raised by Constance. Who knows what Africa would be like today if 11 million of its brightest and best had not been stolen into slavery? Did you hear that? 11 million of Africas brightest and best! It is mindboggling to imagine how the tragedy of the slave trade reshaped the entire world, in particular, Africa itself!
You can meet members of the DeWolf family who are taking this film around the country.
The DVD is available for home use or for use at a public event.
For further reflection read this interview with Dain and Constance Perry.