DeWolf family filming at Bristol Historical SocietyTomorrow’s edition of the Christian Science Monitor includes a feature story about Traces of the Trade, entitled “Family confronts the North’s slave-trading past.”

The article details how Katrina Browne learned of the family’s slave-trading history and decided to film a journey with other DeWolf family members to uncover that past. The article includes quotations from several family members and mentions the film’s premiere at the Sundance Film Festival last week, as well as its anticipated television debut on the PBS documentary series, P.O.V.

The article is thorough and well-written, and includes quotations from the historian Joanne Pope Melish, whose scholarship on the North and slavery was instrumental in shaping history as it is portrayed in the film. The article also contains its share of factual errors, including the claims that President Jefferson granted a favor to the D’Wolf family which allowed them to circumvent the 1808 federal ban on the slave trade which Jefferson himself had championed; that missionaries traveled on D’Wolf slave ships to baptize slaves; and that the family supports H.R. 40.

The reporter also does an admirable job, using her interview with my cousin Elly, of giving the reader a sense of the gravity of the history we confronted on the trip. Here, Elly describes being in the dungeons in Cape Coast Castle on the coast of Ghana, where enslaved Africans were taken to be sold to Europeans:

The dank air, the darkness, and the pounding surf of the ocean at the base of the castle wall – you could hear it outside the one small high window. … You could practically feel the ghosts ….

Leave a Reply