Fri 6 Jul, 2007
Tags: Africa, Bristol, Cuba, James D'Wolf, Race, Rhode Island
As some of you know, there is a documentary film coming out about several of my ancestors and their role in the slave trade.
Traces of the Trade tells the story of the D’Wolf family of Bristol, R.I. and follows ten of our family today, as we retrace the route of the triangle trade and discuss the implications of this family legacy for U.S. race relations today.
My great-great-great-great-great grandfather, U.S. Senator James D’Wolf, was the patriarch of a prominent Rhode Island merchant family. What family history has downplayed for generations is that this was also the most successful slave-trading family in U.S. history.
In the documentary, directed by my cousin, Katrina Browne, ten of us travel from Bristol to the coast of Africa and to Cuba, visiting trading posts, slave dungeons, and ruined plantations. We meet with a variety of scholars, activists, and ordinary people to explore, through conversation and reflection, what our family’s past might mean for the legacy of this country and for race relations today.
Those of us in the film range in age from 32 to 70, and include sisters, brothers, a father and son, and distant relatives who had never met before. We brought a variety of perspectives to the conversation, and we disagreed at least as often as we agreed. But we were all convinced that an honest exploration of the history of our family, and this nation, are essential to resolving and, one day, moving beyond the legacy of slavery.
The film was completed in June 2007 and will be shown publicly beginning in the fall of 2007.