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Film and discussion about the Northern Slave Trade set for Tuesday

Published: Monday, March 24, 2014 3:07 p.m. CST • Updated: Monday, March 24, 2014 5:18 p.m. CST

PRINCETON — The acclaimed documentary, “Traces of the Trade: A Story from the Deep North,” will be shown at 6:30 p.m. today, Tuesday, at the Princeton Public Library.

After the showing, the Rev. Dwight Bailey (First Christian Church) and the Rev. Mary Gay McKinney (Open Prairie UCC) will lead a discussion of the film and its relevance to American race relations today. The Princeton Peace and Justice Roundtable are the program’s sponsors.

Filmmaker Katrina Browne was moved to make “Traces of the Trade” after discovering that her New England ancestors were the largest slave-trading family in U.S. history. This led Browne and nine cousins to retrace the Triangle Trade, confronting the history of northerners’ complicity in American slavery.

From 1769 to 1820, the business of Browne’s ancestors, the DeWolf family, was sailing from Bristol, R.I., to West Africa to acquire African men, women and children in exchange for rum. They were then taken to DeWolf plantations in Cuba or sold at auction in ports like Havana and Charleston. Over the generations, the DeWolf family transported more than 10,000 enslaved Africans across the Middle Passage, amassing an enormous fortune in the process.

The film shows the journey the DeWolf descendants took – actually and symbolically – to face the responsibility of their ancestors in enslaving other human beings and to deal with that legacy. In so doing, the film dramatizes questions for the United States as a whole: Who owes whom what for the sins of the fathers of this country? What history do we inherit as individuals and as citizens? How does Northern complicity change the equation?

For more information, call First Christian Church at 815-879-0916 or Open Prairie at 815-872-5150.

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