2008 POV Preview: ‘Traces of the Trade’

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Get ready to park yourself on the couch on Tuesday nights this summer (or, set up your Tivo to record), because POV has just announced our 2008 schedule, and as usual, we’ll be presenting a slate of insightful and thought-provoking documentaries.

We’re back on your local PBS stations starting Tuesday, June 24 at 10 PM (always check your local listings) with films that explore election-year issues including war and peace, health care, border issues, and race relations. This year’s POV films also take you on journeys into family burdens of the not-so-distant past, into the weirdly familiar backrooms of Japanese politics, and up one of the world’s most fabled — and fast disappearing — waterways: China’s Yangtze River. Plus, the best Johnny Cash documentary ever.

Check out our full 2008 T.V. Schedule.

Today, we’re previewing the first film on our schedule, which airs on June 24. In Traces of the Trade: A Story From the Deep North, first-time filmmaker Katrina Browne makes a troubling discovery — her New England ancestors were the largest slave-trading family in U.S. history. She and nine fellow descendants set off to retrace the Triangle Trade: from their old hometown in Rhode Island to slave forts in Ghana and sugar plantation ruins in Cuba. Step by step, they uncover the vast extent of Northern complicity in slavery while also stumbling through the minefield of contemporary race relations. In this bicentennial year of the U.S. abolition of the slave trade, Traces of the Trade, an Official Selection of the 2008 Sundance Film Festival, offers powerful new perspectives on the black/white divide.

For more previews of 2008 POV films, check out our TV Schedule.

Ruiyan Xu
Ruiyan Xu
Former POVer Ruiyan Xu worked on developing and producing materials for POV's website. Before coming to POV, she worked in the Interactive and Broadband department at Channel Thirteen/WNET. Ruiyan was born in Shanghai and graduated from Brown University with a B.A. in Modern Culture and Media.
  • Eric Howard

    FOREIGNID: 15447
    My opinon regarding the broadcast and airing of “Traces of The Trade” says volumes about a topic which “White America Does Not Want to Address”.
    The issues of rasism in America and how we heal a peoples injustice has many obvious and clear definations. I chose not to elaborate at this time because all areas of thought have not been clearly addressed with the passing of time and America’s true consent.
    I take a simpliatic view:
    The making of this documentary along with other present day issues. One being the possibility of a Black President with Barack Obama’s resent nominations as the Democratic front runner. Should serve as a new definition of “Who and What Black People Are”. The Issue of Racism and how “White America” addresses It, is not an indictment of racism for America but a New defination and Proclamation as to “What and Who Black People Are”.
    any details

  • La Roy R.L. Anderson

    FOREIGNID: 15448
    Hello, My comment about this matter:
    I think that it is the (acted) of slavery more then the many people involved. Because in this time: No amount of money will fix the problem. The problem is to big…to mixed to be sovled in that manner. So there for I see it as…..To fix are to repent of this “act” we need to give the INFOREMATION about This and other… FREELY!
    It is the act of somethink that will make it look right or wrong…. But were is the truth? Thank You

  • Prolificsis

    FOREIGNID: 15449
    I am African, born of two parents, one who could not read and the other had only a high school education. Both came from families of enslaved Africans, who had endured decades of severe poverty, post slavery. So this young couple, as did so many couples before them, had the task of trying to, some how, recover from this horrendous tragedy of enslavement. Consequently, Mom and Dad instilled the ideas of achievement and pride into their six children, making education as important as breathing air. My Dad drilled in our heads, “Having no money is no excuse to not go to college!” Well, this meant that my day, a janitor and my mom, a postal worker had to work day and night, not having decent shoes or good winter coats, and poor quality food, just so my siblings and I could go to decent schools; the public school system in our town was horrible. So they did this, and off to college each of us went. Almost all of us at one time or another was homeless and hungry during our tenure in college. Even though we were poor, we weren’t poor enough to receive aid for school; therefore, we each struggled to make ends met and have all accumulated thousands of dollars of debt in our attempt to make good on our parent’s efforts to forge the family ahead. I am currently just finishing medical school, owing over $100,000 in educational loans. My brother is soon to get his Ph. D in linguistics, he owes close to this amount as well. My sister has a masters in economics and other siblings have recently graduated or still attending undergraduate institutions. One thing we all have in common, WE ARE ALL STILL POOR! All of us, with the exception of my sister, live below the poverty line, with my sister being only one check or two away from poverty. Two of my parent’s children have families, my sister and my self; both families live under the poverty line. Some of us have tried to curtail the debt by working to accumulate the money for tuition, only to postpone potential earnings, perpetuating even more poverty. Eventually, we will gain employment within our perspective fields, using the majority of our income to pay back the debt instead of forging ahead. In spite of our education, we will still be in the ranks of the working poor or two to three paychecks away from being poor; our American dream!
    African Americans, incur great amounts of educational debt, while consistently receiving less pay doing the same jobs as their white counterparts. This is a well-established fact, not to mention all of the other disparities well documented, even via PBS. So TODAY we suffer. We suffer because America took from us. Whether it was your ancestor who took from us or the ancestor who lived two states away from your ancestor, you are reaping the benefits of economic practices of yesterday. Those benefits were, and still are at the expense of my ancestors; oddly my family is still paying for these benefits, as if we owe America for its misguided, abusive past. The least Americans can do to help us recover from this holocaust, is to implement educational loan forgiveness programs, giving full scholarships for education, from preschool through graduate school. Americans could also legislate programs that use “best Practice” methods to develop positive coping mechanism so vital to any victim’s recovery.
    THIS IS THE RESPONSIBILITY OF AMERICA. White Americans (at that time, only whites could exercise autonomy in America) created and/or perpetuated a system that kidnapped, and enslaved innocent people and their innocent offspring. Furthermore, White Americans set laws and put systems in place to impose additional restrictions on the children, grand children and great grand children of enslaved Africans, further perpetuating the past criminal act of kidnapping and enslavement. To offer only a apology is to perpetuate the abuse!
    America became “the wealthiest” nation in the world as a result of the treacherous free labor of my Great-Grandma’s mother, who was bludgeoned to death by her master as she worked in Alabama fields, and the free labor of My Great Grand Pa who died in 1887; when travel down South, I still visit his grave! Maybe is was not your ancestor who owned slaves; however, your ancestor benefited from the labor of my ancestors directly or indirectly, while some Americans, like the Wolf family, benefit more than others. What is more important, each American has only a definite amount of time on this earth to seize this wonderful opportunity to have a positive impact and move this country in the direction of wholeness and strength. DON’T WASTE IT!

  • Lisa

    FOREIGNID: 15450
    I’m wondering if Katrina considered contacting the descendants of the slaves who worked on the De Wolf plantation to get their perspective on all of this. I recall that in the documentary, the De Wolf family members visited the marker of one of the slaves, so perhaps there is documentation to trace these descendants.

  • Rachel Finnin

    FOREIGNID: 15451

  • Catherine

    FOREIGNID: 15452
    Hi Rachel,
    Information about purchasing Traces of the Trade is available here: