James Baldwin

Do not blame me. I was not there. I did not do it.

At the height of the civil rights movement in 1965, the great American writer James Baldwin penned an essay for Ebony magazine entitled “White Man’s Guilt.”

Baldwin’s words are rooted in the struggles of a time different from our own, but he offers timeless reflections on history, memory, and inherited responsibility. His essay also resonates with our own era because it concerns the same history, the same racial inheritance, with which we struggle today as we seek to come closer to healing the racial divisions of his society and ours.

Here is an extended quotation from Baldwin’s essay, which brilliantly deconstructs a response from Americans to their own history which, unfortunately, is still all too common:

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On the front page of today’s Style section, the Washington Post runs a feature story on Traces of the Trade, headlined “A Family Discovers Its History of Shackles and Shame.”

The article, by Ellen Maguire, runs in advance of the Washington-area broadcast of the film on Sunday on WETA, and features interviews with Katrina Browne, the director, and Juanita Brown, a co-producer.

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Laura Flanders, who hosts “RadioNation” on Air America Radio, has a video interview with Katrina Browne, the producer/director of Traces of the Trade, at Fire Dog Lake this afternoon.

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Philadelphia City Paper
Traces of the Trade is featured this evening in a thoughtful article, “Slavers in the Family,” which serves as a cover story for tomorrow’s edition of the Philadelphia City Paper.

The article, by Sam Adams, carries the subhead, “How Philly native Katrina Browne confronted her ties to America’s original sin, and why the nation should follow her lead,” and features interviews with Katrina Browne and Tom DeWolf. This coverage is motivated by screenings of the documentary at the National Constitution Center on April 24; as the article explains, the screenings were originally to be held as part of the Philadelphia Film Festival, until a conflict arose with the Democratic debate between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

As I indicated, this is a particularly thoughtful article. Adams does review the film itself, describing it as “gripping” and “a fascinating and largely unknown story,” but he focuses on the family’s introspection about the legacy of the slave trade and delves into Katrina’s and Tom’s backgrounds and motivations as coverage of the film and book rarely do.

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Tom DeWolf, the author of Inheriting the Trade, was interviewed this afternoon on the Cliff Kelley Show on WVON-AM radio (“The Talk of Chicago”).

This turned into a lengthy and well-received interview, with Tom being asked to stay well into the show’s second hour to continue the conversation and being asked to return another time.

I have several comments after the jump, but the full interview with Tom can be heard here.

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In this post, I want to discuss, and link to, the various reviews of Traces of the Trade which have come out during the Sundance Film Festival. I intend to cover the good, the bad, and the ugly, and to offer a thought or two in response to the reviewers.

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Jim Perry in the Arizona StarThis morning brings another outstanding and detailed article on Traces of the Trade at the Sundance Film Festival, this time in the Arizona Daily Star.

This article features Jim Perry, a Tucson resident and direct descendant of James D’Wolf who appears in Traces of the Trade. He’s also my father, so I’m particularly pleased at how well this story turned out.

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