Monday, June 1, 2009

NCORE 2009: Traces of the Trade: A Story from The Deep North

The viewing of this film was incredibly packed, and rightfully so. Katrina Browne’s story is one that hails from the heart of our country. She is descended from the DeWolf family, the largest slave trading family in America. Through their endeavors, they brought more than 10,000 Africans from the coast of Ghana, to the New World. Millions of Americans can attribute their ancestors’ displacement to this one family. 

In the film, Katrina and some of her family members retrace the trade route their elders traveled and dig up old, long buried family secrets. Their trip is far from superficial, no matter how much they seem to want it to be initially. One of the most inspiring things about the film is their willingness to be transparent and deal with the guilt, anger and pain that they confront while travelling. They speak of the privilege that they have from such treacherous business. They also go in depth into the business aspects of the trade. 

One of the things I found most interesting is that while watching the film, I was not even mad at their forebearers for what they did. I found myself calculating the money they were making, thinking about conversion rates and how rich they would be today. It is chilling to think that anyone, even a descendent of one of the worst crimes against humanity ever, could think about the money to be made from it. But it helps me realize that, like the guy said in the film, I cannot villify these people. What they did was evil, and they knew it, but who, when presented with the opportunity, wouldn’t do something similar? People do it every day. I guess the potential for depravity is within us all, and we have to find some way to quell that instinct. For me, it’s Jesus.

The other thing that really stood out to me about the DeWolf descendents was not only their compassion and remorse, but their drive to do something about what they had seen. They did not just read old slaver ledgers and visit old plantation ruins. They had conversations with Ghanaian people, who asked them questions like, “Don’t you feel shamed to even be here?” They faced it head on and when they returned to the States, they made further attempts to make things right. They have pushed for reconciliation, written books, and traveled all over the country to help right some of the wrongs done during slavery. You can find out more about what they are doing on their Web site:


CaliforniaNewsreel said...

The film is available from California Newsreel

Evan E. Roberts said...

Hey thank you!!