Pose a question to Traces of the Trade’s Tom DeWolf

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Book cover for Inheriting the Trade by Tom DeWolfTom DeWolf is filmmaker Katrina Browne‘s cousin and the author of Inheriting the Trade, the unique story of his experiences during the making of Traces of the Trade, which airs on POV on June 24th (check your local listings).
In 2001, Tom was astounded to discover that he was related to the most successful slave-trading family in U.S. history, responsible for transporting at least 10,000 Africans to the Americas during the 19th century. Tom met his distant cousin Katrina Browne for the first time, and together with her and with eight other family members, he traveled to Rhode Island, Ghana and Cuba to retrace the notorious Triangle Trade.
In Inheriting the Trade, Tom writes:

I was excited to join Katrina to further investigate my family ancestry and to travel to Africa and Cuba. I looked forward to becoming more global in my thinking and awareness, but I was simultaneously anxious. This was going to be an expensive journey where I’d confront issues that I recognized more and more I’d rather not deal with. My anxiety was prescient. My exposure to issues of race would change dramatically in 2001 — and in unimagined ways for which my life hadn’t prepared me.

You can read three extended excerpts from Inheriting the Trade on the POV website for Traces of the Trade.
We asked Tom some questions about his book tour and the Traces of the Trade broadcast. Read his answers below, and add your own question or comment to the mix. Twenty-five lucky POV viewers will receive a signed copy of Tom’s book!

POV: What do you personally hope that PBS viewers take away from the Traces of the Trade broadcast on POV?
Tom DeWolf: The short answer is Inspiration. I hope people are inspired to dig a little deeper into aspects of our nation’s history that have been hidden. I hope they are inspired to examine their own lives and communities for ways in which we unconsciously (and consciously) perpetuate inequity and injustice and separation. I hope they are inspired to recognize that the road to healing and reconciliation isn’t as frightening as we may think it is.

POV: What conversations do you hope will happen in living rooms across the country, and particularly in New England?
DeWolf: It doesn’t matter to me what people talk about in their living rooms, class rooms, churches, and so forth, as long as they talk. I hope conversations on a variety of themes are stimulated by people watching the film and reading Inheriting the Trade. Our family journey is really an invitation into a deeper conversation. It begins with a conversation with oneself and grows into the wider communities we belong to. We have a particular interest in New England because the family story is centered there. Many generations of DeWolfs were raised in Bristol, Rhode Island. Many DeWolf descendants continue to reside in New England and elsewhere in the east. When the slave trade was an integral — and legal — part of our nation’s economy there were only 13 colonies/states. It feels appropriate to me that New England and the other original states lead the nation in efforts to address these issues. That said, I grew up in California and have lived in Oregon for more than 35 years. I hope that conversations that spring up out of Traces of the Trade all over the nation. Once we recognize we’re all in this together and we all have a role to play in the healing dialogue we’ll be moving in the right direction.

POV: What can people who are concerned about the issues of healing, repair and reparations do in their local communities?
DeWolf: The first step is awareness of the issues. So whether people begin the conversation with their families and friends or with their churches or schools, the beginning point is education about the full history AND the legacy that we’ve all inherited that continues to impact us today. I encourage people to talk. Reach out to people you may not have reached out to before. Have the conversation. Use Inheriting the Trade in your reading groups and book clubs. Once the DVD of Traces of the Trade is available (soon… soon…), watch it together with others and see what comes up in conversation. Once we recognize that we’re all damaged by the legacy of slavery and begin the work to heal together — strong emphasis on “together”; this is ALL about relationships — we’ll offer each other a little more grace and hope.

POV: You’ve recently been on a book tour, conducting readings of Inheriting the Trade in bookstores across the country. What are some of the highlights from your tour?
DeWolf: In addition to bookstores I’ve visited museums, film festivals, universities, middle schools and high schools, churches, libraries, conferences, and conventions. The overriding highlight for me is witnessing how much people hunger for this conversation. People have told me they feel like they’re being given permission to talk about things that we’ve all been raised to avoid. Edward Ball, author of Slaves in the Family, told us about his own experience with this when his book was published. People do want to talk about these difficult issues but we don’t know how. Senator Obama, in his amazing speech on race that he gave March 18 at the U.S. Constitution Center in Philadelphia, truly named it. There is anger in the black community. There is anger in the white community. This anger has helped shape the political landscape. He spoke about the racial stalemate we’ve been stuck in for years. Two weeks later, Katrina Browne and I were honored to be on that same stage as part of the Constitution Center’s year-long “Legacy of 1808″ series of events to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the U.S. slave trade.

My experience on the road these past months is that people want out of the stalemate. We’re tired of being angry, resentful and separate from each other. The second part of this highlight for me has been how eager people are to tell their own stories. We all have them. I enjoy talking with folks about their stories. I feel blessed that our family is able to play a small part — with many other people (filmmakers, authors, teachers, and so on) and organizations — in this critical national conversation. We met with Professor Kofi Anyidoho when we were in Ghana. He’s a revered national poet and a strong inspiration to me. He called slavery “a living wound under a patchwork of scars.” He said that we must remove the scars and cleanse the wound properly in order to begin to heal.
Our goal as a family — now that we’re coming to the end of the normal “book tour” phase and the film is truly “out there” and will soon be available to individuals and institutions — is to now embark on more of a national outreach campaign. It is my/our intention to visit, and work with, organizations who are interested in deepening this conversation. The ultimate highlight is working with people who are interested in addressing what W.E.B. Dubois called “the problem of the color-line.”


Do you have a question for Tom about his book, participating in the film or about his journey? Ask your question in the comments and check back in the days after the film airs to see his responses. Enter a valid email address for your chance to win a copy of Inheriting the Trade.

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.
  • Martha Bewick

    FOREIGNID: 15778
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    Two questions, with the hope I’ll be successful in winning a copy of your book, which sounds fascinating. The first is do you also trace the trade of other prominent Northern families engaged in slave trade, such as the Browns of Rhode Island, and Thomas H. Perkins of Massachusetts, and is there a link in their slavery ventures? Secondly, have you been in touch with Wilberforce descendents in the UK, some of whom are engaged in anti-slavery initiatives today?

  • Elva Croswell

    FOREIGNID: 15779
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    As mentioned in comments by Katrina Brown, this film is only the tip of the iceberg…My question is but why is this so??Don’t I matter? Don’t African Americans matter? The question is rhetorical because the film clips suggest that not only do we not matter but we never have mattered to America”,except from an economical standpoint. Slavery is a part of the collective memory of who we were and are today – as it is with most African Americans – whether they choose to acknowledge that fact or not. My grandfather was so ashamed of his parents enslavement, that he could not talk about them without weeping. In college, I was as embarrased as my professors when they talked about the Golden Triangle., and mentioned that many Norhtern states had large slave populations. Born and raised in Philadelphia, PA, I knew that whites lin the city of “brotherly love” also held slaves. Every Northern state in the Union from 1620 enslaved Africans and engaged in some form of slavery for profit. How can you say you didn’t know about slaves or slavery? My great aunt came to Bristol, RI in the 1920′s and worked as a domestic – she used to say to us when we asked her how could she stand living Bristol…”I am the darker brother”… who lives , (dreams) and dies unnoticed… (sic)Langston Hughes.
    How is it that you come to this topic (about making money and being wealthy)three hundred and fifty years after Jamestown?
    This is one POV that I will not watch… it is not enlightening; it is disheartening, and painful.
    Regrets,
    Dr. Elva L. Croswell

  • John Koontz

    FOREIGNID: 15780
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    How were the slave owners able to reconcile slavery with their so-called Christian beliefs? Would this be the epitome of hypocrisy or what?

  • Kit Tennis

    FOREIGNID: 15781
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    As a descendant of a Virginian who landed on these shores in the mid-1600′s, I know that my family must have benefited from slavery, even if they didn’t engage in the trade (which I am unable to confirm). My question is, though your particular ancestors did not directly engage in trading slaves, how much of your family’s success and your own opportunities do you now attribute to the direct or indirect effects of the trade, and how would you most fairly assess a tax on your current family wealth as fair reparation for those unfairly-gotten gains?

  • Eric Cameron

    FOREIGNID: 15782
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    I am struck by the passage in which you write “I also didn’t know about any of the family history, let alone about slavery in the North. There’s no amnesia, there’s no guilt—for me, it didn’t exist. Katrina asks what I would think if I were my ancestor Simon. Even though I’m not guilty, how I would deal with the fact that my brother was a slave trader?” As a secondary history teacher, how one relates and emotionally connects to the past is not only something that I find very interesting, but it is also something that I discuss with my students on a regular basis.
    Recently I attended a seminar on the Cambodian genocide under the Khmer Rouge, and there were several survivors in the audience who were strong enough to share their thoughts during the discussions. One man spoke of how he was ashamed of his Cambodian heritage after making it through the refugee camps to his new “home” in St. Paul, Minnesota. Other audience members who were refugees from other countries echoed his sentiment of embarrassment for his country’s actions; though they were not complicit or actively involved in the making of the decisions that were destroying their country (in fact, they were the victims of the decisions), they still felt shamed as though they were.
    I am wondering how, if at all, learning about your family’s slave trading past has affected your sense of family or cultural pride? And if it has, how have you begun to start working though these emotions?

  • Anne Rector

    FOREIGNID: 15783
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    As a native of East Tennessee and a descendant, not of slave owners, but of farmers who supported the Union in the Civil War, I am aware of the economic considerations behind the owning of slaves. During the years prior to the development of machinization, all labor, particularly agricultural labor, was necessarily done by humans. I have never understood why using actual manpower was considered abhorrent.
    Given the limitations of innovation during the period of slavery in the US, do you believe your ancestors engaged in slave trade primarily for financial expediency, just as those who purchased the slaves were doing it for the same purpose?

  • http://www.inheritingthetrade.com/ Tom DeWolf

    FOREIGNID: 15784
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    Hello all, Tom DeWolf here. There doesn’t appear to be a way for me to comment on comments, so I’m going to do my best to answer questions in the order they come in. I stopped by the P.O.V. office today in Manhattan–since I’m in New York for the Human Rights Watch Film Festival–and the 25 people who receive copies of the book as a result of posting questions here will receive a copy that I signed today.
    The first questions were posed by Martha Bewick. “…do you also trace the trade of other prominent Northern families engaged in slave trade, such as the Browns of Rhode Island, and Thomas H. Perkins of Massachusetts, and is there a link in their slavery ventures?
    Answer: not much. The Browns are included in my book because the DeWolfs and Browns were business and political partners. “Sons of Providence” is a great book about the Brown brothers; quite enlightening about the history of the slave trade as well as the abolition movement–all within one complicated, complicit family. And yes, there is a direct link among the various slave-trading entities. I’d call it more of a “web” that connected people, businesses, communities, and nations in ways that have many parallels to today.
    Martha’s second question:”…have you been in touch with Wilberforce descendents in the UK, some of whom are engaged in anti-slavery initiatives today?”
    Answer: No I haven’t. We have been in contact with many individuals and groups who are working to undo racism in this country and elsewhere and it is possible that some of my cousins have been in touch with the Wilberforce folks, but I’m not aware of it.

  • http://www.inheritingthetrade.com/ Tom DeWolf

    FOREIGNID: 15785
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    The second set of questions–which the writer describes as rhetorical–come from Dr. Elva L. Croswell, who states that she won’t watch Traces of the Trade because she believes that either the film or the subject matter “is not enlightening; it is disheartening, and painful.” I urge anyone reading this comment of mine to read Dr. Croswell’s original comment above.
    Thank you for your comment, Dr. Croswell. I respect your words and hope you will reconsider. The purpose of our family’s journey was to confront the true history of our family, New England, and all of America; to face the brutality and terror of the slavery system and the “traces” of it all that we have inherited today. You are right. The legacy of slavery is disheartening and painful. When we were in Ghana, we met with Professor Kofi Anyidoho from the University of Ghana at Accra. He told us that slavery is a living wound under a patchwork of scars. We must remove the scars and clean the wound properly if we ever hope to heal.
    As people of European descent we will likely say and do some wrong or insensitive things in the future–we certainly have in the past. But our commitment as a family is to stay at the table for the conversation. I encourage you and others who share Dr. Croswell’s concerns to go to The Root and read my cousin Katrina Browne’s description of the journey we’ve been on to make this film (http://www.theroot.com/id/46973). I hope it will help you understand our intentions in embarking on the journey as well as our intentions and commitment now and in the future.

  • http://www.inheritingthetrade.com/ Tom DeWolf

    FOREIGNID: 15786
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    John Koontz wrote: “How were the slave owners able to reconcile slavery with their so-called Christian beliefs? Would this be the epitome of hypocrisy or what?”
    The short answers are “I have no idea” and “yes.”
    I studied to be a minister in college. I left the church and haven’t attended regularly since the late 1970′s. Directly above the dungeons where African men were held at Cape Coast Castle waiting for a ship to take them across the Middle Passage is an Anglican Church. My roommate throughout our journey, Ledlie Laughlin, is a retired Episcopal priest. We had some challenging–and rich–conversations during the journey. I won’t go into it here. I deal with the complexities of religion and its connection to–and complicity in–the slave trade, slavery, and the discrimination and inequity that followed and continues today in Inheriting the Trade.
    Suffice it to say that this is a complex and challenging issue for communities of faith and part of our outreach campaign is working directly with churches as they embark on their journeys of discovery of their own history in connection with slavery.

  • http://www.inheritingthetrade.com/ Tom DeWolf

    FOREIGNID: 15787
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    Kit Tennis writes: “though your particular ancestors did not directly engage in trading slaves, how much of your family’s success and your own opportunities do you now attribute to the direct or indirect effects of the trade, and how would you most fairly assess a tax on your current family wealth as fair reparation for those unfairly-gotten gains?”
    Our nation was founded during a time when slavery was legal. I don’t believe the United States could have sustained itself economically as an independent nation without relying on the free–and stolen–labor of enslaved African people. There were many people of European descent who weren’t slave traders or slave owners. But they still benefited from the system. They were sail and rope makers. They were farmers who grew food that fed enslaved African people in the West Indies. They invested in banks that invested in the slave trade. They used sugar, cotton, tobacco, rice, and other slave-produced commodities.
    Many people came to this country after the slave trade was ended. They arrived in a country with a two-tiered system. And they benefited from their light skin. They had access to housing and jobs that were denied to black people.
    I’d like to turn the question around at this point–not to you personally, Kit, but to anyone who is reading this. Think deeply about the implications of the incredibly pervasive system of slavery that existed, and sustained, this nation–the entire nation–for hundreds of years (including over 200 years in the North) and ask yourself: how much of your, your family’s, and our nation’s success and opportunities can be attributed to the effects of the slavery system? What would a fair reparation (repairing the harm–please don’t freak out over the “R” word here; I’m talking about reparation in a very comprehensive, global way, which I go into great detail on in my book) look like?
    This is an important conversation we need to have as a people, as a country, as communities. It is natural to want to blame the slave traders or the slave owners or the African people who traded their fellow Africans to the European traders. We’ve been doing it for a long time and it hasn’t led to healing of the historic wounds. It is time to dig more deeply and honestly into all this. Be willing to have the difficult conversations. The first one is with yourself.

  • http://www.inheritingthetrade.com/ Tom DeWolf

    FOREIGNID: 15788
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    Eric Cameron compared the Cambodian genocide to the slave trade; a valid comparison of humankind’s inhumanity to one another. He then asks, “…how, if at all, learning about your family’s slave trading past has affected your sense of family or cultural pride? And if it has, how have you begun to start working though these emotions?”
    This journey with my cousins has certainly impacted my thinking and allowed me to peel back the “layers of the onion” as a professor of mine once described dealing with complicated issues. I look at our nation’s founders differently; particularly Thomas Jefferson–both because our ancestors received a political favor from him and because I’ve become involved with descendants of his and both the women he had children with (Martha Jefferson and Sally Hemings). For me this isn’t about trashing Jefferson or the other slave-owning presidents, it is seeing them–and my ancestors–as the complex people they were. It is viewing all of history, even the ugly parts, and learning from the horrors of the past in order to create a more graceful future.
    Since you brought up Southeast Asia, I strongly encourage you to check out a film called Nerakhoon (The Betrayal) that I wrote about on my own blog when we were at the Sundance Film Festival in January (http://inheritingthetrade.com/blog/?p=60). If you read my blog post about it I’m sure you’ll understand why I recommend it and believe it is directly relevant to this discussion.
    Working through these emotional issues requires a willingness to, well, work through the issues. There are many organizations helping people to do so. You can check them out on the “links” page on my website: http://www.inheritingthetrade.com/resources.html

  • http://www.inheritingthetrade.com/ Tom DeWolf

    FOREIGNID: 15789
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    Anne Rector correctly points out that prior to the development of machinery manual labor was how the world worked. Humans did the work. She writes, “I have never understood why using actual manpower was considered abhorrent.” She then asks, “Given the limitations of innovation during the period of slavery in the US, do you believe your ancestors engaged in slave trade primarily for financial expediency, just as those who purchased the slaves were doing it for the same purpose?
    I’m not sure I understand your comment about manpower being considered abhorrent. I’ve certainly not contended that manpower is abhorrent. But forcing people to work without their permission, without properly compensating them for their labor, and stripping them of their humanity; I do find that abhorrent.
    As for your main question, yes, I do believe that the DeWolfs who engaged in the slave trade did so primarily for financial reasons–just like slave owners in the South. Many compromises have been made throughout history by people who wanted “more” for themselves and their families at the expense of others and their families.

  • Marie Douglas

    FOREIGNID: 15790
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    I just have one quick question. What will you do with the proceeds of your book?

  • http://www.inheritingthetrade.com/ Tom DeWolf

    FOREIGNID: 15791
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    Thanks for your question, Marie. The quick answer to your question is found in the Acknowledgments of Inheriting the Trade, on page 252: “Katrina and I committed ourselves from the beginning to dedicate profits generated from the film and this book to overcoming racism and other forms of systemic inequity that exist in the United States and elsewhere.”
    There remains significant debt connected with this project as well as ongoing expenses to reach out with the film and the book to people across the country in order to support efforts to confront the effects of racism that continue to impact us all.
    I have wanted to be an author since I was a teenager. Through this project I’m able not only to work with people I love on something that really matters, but to fulfill my professional dream as well. The more successful this book and future projects become, the greater the opportunity we’ll have to continue this work.
    So if anyone knows Oprah really well… ;o)

  • http://serenitylife.vox.com Jennifer

    FOREIGNID: 15792
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    Thank you for your documentary because it will be a testimony to a generation that is not well educated in knowing their history.
    When Oprah did her documentary on finding her roots, I wanted to know mine but unfortunately through DNA testing I was unable to find out specific information about what part of Africa my ancestors came from for I received a vague response, “some part of Africa.”
    Question: Did you make a conscious effort in producing this film to hire or work with those of other minorities? Just wondering and the reason why I ask this is that there are some minorities who are making documentaries to share stories that are untold like your story. I believe that maybe working with someone with similar interests and sensitivity would help you in visioning your over all result with your film. But this is not to discount other filmmakers but to make the point that you need others who are sensitive to your vision to help you create that compelling effect.
    Thank you for your time, effort, patience and will power to make the film. I will be watching.

  • http://serenitylife.vox.com Jennifer

    FOREIGNID: 15793
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    Thank you for your documentary because it will be a testimony to a generation that is not well educated in knowing their history.
    When Oprah did her documentary on finding her roots, I wanted to know mine but unfortunately through DNA testing I was unable to find out specific information about what part of Africa my ancestors came from for I received a vague response, “some part of Africa.”
    Question: Did you make a conscious effort in producing this film to hire or work with those of other minorities? Just wondering and the reason why I ask this is that there are some minorities who are making documentaries to share stories that are untold like your story. I believe that maybe working with someone with similar interests and sensitivity would help you in visioning your over all result with your film. But this is not to discount other filmmakers but to make the point that you need others who are sensitive to your vision to help you create that compelling effect.
    Thank you for your time, effort, patience and will power to make the film. I will be watching.

  • Margaret

    FOREIGNID: 15794
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    As an amateur genealogist and descendant of wealthy slave holding families from Louisiana, I think about the effects of slavery often. My ancestor, Bennett Barrow’s diary has been used extensively by historians to study slavery on southern plantations. I’m always trying to come to terms with my feelings about my family history. You can’t change who you ancestors were, but hopefully you can learn from their mistakes. It’s a complex issue and it’s hard to talk about. I’m interested in learning different perspectives on this issue.
    Do you think there are differences in the history, experiences, and guilt of descendants of slave owners / traders from the north and south? I think that slavery was never just a southern problem, I’m glad that the filmmaker decided to make this film and you wrote a book about it. I hope that the film and book will help us understand our imperfect history and continue to discuss and learn.

  • Amaryah

    FOREIGNID: 15795
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    I was curious what kind of obstacles you encountered from yourself in taking this journey? Looking so honestly into a past like this had to be difficult for you. Was there any time when you considered not continuing to discover more about the history of your family?

  • Victor Morgan

    FOREIGNID: 15796
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    I doubt now my deceased parents’ expressions of non-rcism toward coloreds that we were reminded of by them as my sister and twin brother grew up in Illinois. They had moved from Canada to “the states” in the 1920s and I cannot believe a journalist of DeWolfe’s stature could put the brakes on racism at the Canadian border. It is more journalistic license than I care to believe exists Where else did I hear and repeat the insulting “jigaboo, ni*#&*” and more than first in my home? Not on my street, I submit this tale fr�m my pre-teen yearsalong with a red-faced apology to Joe Waller, a black man with whom I once worked at a good newspaper and to whom I swore to Joe were words had never used.
    been a racist!

  • jerry rubin

    FOREIGNID: 15797
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    I have not read all the comments and I will not be able to see the PBS show until tomorrow, so my question is simple: Were there other books before yours which your gleamed your research on the topic and why has this taken so long to be written and shown on TV? Finally, do you think this will be part of the American history class rather then the versions we were taught in school?

  • Mary Mura

    FOREIGNID: 15798
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    The founding fathers recognized that slavery was wrong – but, they knew that the States needed to first be United. The U.S. would never have happened if they would have demanded slavery be abolished. The wise founding fathers understood that the United Nation had to come first and they trusted that following generations would then address the need to abolish slavery – and – so you see this did happen.

  • Anne

    FOREIGNID: 15799
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    As a member of a descendancy organizaiton which has practiced bigotry, I am pleased to see this organization re-inventing itself from the epiphany of backlash against Marion Anderson’s being refused access to Constitution Hall in Washingotn DC. I was pleased to see the transformative manner in which your family and many African Americans acknowledged the painful past and sought to heal. Your cousin, Katrina Browne’s film brought a new freedom to people of all colors towards a human liberation. Do you think this liberation can impact a juster transfer of power and wealth,, so that renewed trust can lead to more effective, shared outcomes across racial and geographical barriers?

  • patricia o’hara

    FOREIGNID: 15800
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    truly feel blessed by the show. katrina is on God’s path up the mountain, as are the 10 of you. what has been your reception from contacts with various churches? as an irish catholic who learned of “nina” ( no irish need apply ) as a policy of new england employers in the past, i await transparent treatment of many issues by my church – that is the people and their clergy – and slavery is prominent in the mix of such issues. thank you for your efforts on this show, and in writing about it. hope i win a copy! blessings to all, pat o’hara

  • Nicole

    FOREIGNID: 15801
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    I am curious….can you identify something, like a characteristic or belief within you or your family members that prompted you to go on this trip and to explore these issues of race. I got the sense that some of your family members chose not to come. Is there something that you all had in common or did you all have different reasons for embarking on the journey? The rationale for the question–is there something extraordinary about you and your family or was it just a willingness to take the leap into these issues? Is it your elite family background highlighted in the film that compelled you all to get involved? I think it is a powerful, poignant journey that you’re on (just because the film has aired, doesn’t mean your journey’s are over), but I wonder what about others? Will others embark on similar journeys or is your family unique?

  • Kay Stroud

    FOREIGNID: 15802
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    You may use HTML tags for style and links. This was a a very moving presentation. I found this program deeply thought provoking and as I watched became more and more caught up and emotionally involved. My 2 questions are: Did you have the same set of reasons, goals, priorities and motivations for joining this “vision quest” when you originally started out as those you truly finished with? Question two: Taken in the many broad issues it covers (and lack of time and space) what about the Native Americans and do you think approipriate reparations have been made? I find it just to try to do something but whatever is and may be…is not enough.

  • Gladys L.Nesbit

    FOREIGNID: 15803
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    I was blessed to go Elmira castle(dungeon), in 1994 with Dr.Asa Hilliard, who was a African-American Historian. I too, am African-American and the pain we felt as Black Community was very intense, saddening a & infuriating.
    As the one young African asked you , Did slavery make you feel superior or my question is it this countries omission of African History, that programs the masses to have inferior and superior attitudes?

  • Sandy

    FOREIGNID: 15804
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    I was deeply moved by the film which was broadcast on my local PBS station this evening. I was especially interested in the conversation which occurred late in the film during which members of your family went around the table and named the colleges from which they graduated. I wonder how your education and the educations of those sitting at that table were financed. Since education today divides the rich from the poor more than any other factor, I wonder what kinds of education the descendants of the slaves your family purchased and sold have been able to achieve. Do you believe there could be some benefit in comparing and understanding the advantages and disadvantages passed from generation to generation of slave trader and slave? (I’m suggesting looking specifically at education, political influence, land ownership and other wealth of DeWolf descendants and comparing with descendants of some of the slaves traded by the DeWolfs.) Could it help people in the US better understand issues of poverty today?

  • Lascelles Anderson

    FOREIGNID: 15805
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    Has any effort been made to connect with African-American descendants of any of the slaves from the deWolfe “business” to get their response to any of the large quiestions your work raised?

  • http://www.davidbenariel.org David Ben-Ariel

    FOREIGNID: 15806
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    What an orgy of shame! I endured Traces of the Trade and discovered nothing new in it except for perhaps the disgusting depths that self-hating, bleeding heart white liberals, will descend to and self-righteously insist on dragging everybody else along with them.
    What a twisted trip for white masochists, groveling before blacks who questioned and mocked them, who refused to shake their hand and who said they felt angry. White people ought to be angry at blacks always playing the victim and never taking responsibility for themselves – whether in the US or Africa.
    Reparations are not the solution, especially if we subtract what blacks have cost America. Why should those who were never slave owners pay those who were never slaves? REPATRIATION is the solution. And looking at African blacks versus American blacks, some could conclude that for many the sacrifice of slavery is the best thing that ever happened. You certainly don’t see blacks clamoring to return to Africa with any sense of proper pride, even though many claim to be “Afro-centric.” Yet they’ll stay and complain and try to shake down guilty whites instead of recognizing or admitting the common sense of Abraham Lincoln that still rings true today: the solution is racial separation.
    “I will say, then, that I AM NOT NOR HAVE EVER BEEN in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the black and white races—that I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of making voters or jurors of Negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with White people; and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the White and black races which will ever FORBID the two races living together on terms of social and political equality. And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together, there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I, as much as any other man, am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the White race.”
    - Abraham Lincoln

  • Bob McHugh

    FOREIGNID: 15807
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    As a High School U.S. History teacher “Traces of the Trade” is one of the finest sources I have seen that examines the often ignored role of the North in promoting slavery. It made me think of the song “Molasses to Rum” from the 1776 musical. Tom, you also were involved in another divisive issue in the film outside of race. The issue of privilege and class advantage was evident when it was revealed that you were the only family member not to attend an Ivy League college. The underlying feeling of not fitting in with the “elites” was palpable with your phrase “I think I’m going to eat in the kitchen.” Do you deal with the issues of special advantages and having the proper family connections in “Inheriting the Trade?” It may be that race is just the largest chapter of this more general method of social and economic stratification.

  • Susan Dittman

    FOREIGNID: 15808
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    I just finished watching the documentary Traces of the Trade. As a former Peace Corps Vol. in the Eastern Caribbean I have become interested in the history and current issues of that region. My husband and I have begun taking groups down for voluntour vacations doing service projects and our local University just sponsored a class in Barbados and St. Vincent about Slavery and plantation life. One of the professors and I are now teaming up to hopefully take groups down to the area to study slavery and plantation life as well. What suggestions would you have for us to make this more than educational? How do we best get folks to probe their own feelings about race, power, repsonsibility, privilege, etc. I’d greatly appreciate your suggestions for specific activities.

  • gertrude Frey

    FOREIGNID: 15809
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    afer watching the film i felt at peace with myself and with the white race as a whole because you thought enough to retrace the steps of your ancesters as well as my ancesters and to try to feel what they were subjected to. thank you for taking the time to care. that is the beginning of healing. I dont need or want your money. I want equality for myself and my people .We want to be treated with the same respect you demand. i don’t want anything given to me but I dont want to be blocked at every turn from acquireing the things that are offered to whites. Promotions on jobs, loans for housing, better schools. I want to be seen and not looked over or ignored.I think blacks and whites should come together and I feel the church would be a good place to start. take the defences down. whites need to change there thinkng and stop thinking that they are surperior to blacks. some may be better educated but they are not surperior.we need to stop talking and began acting. Speak to people in the market, the shopping centers, etc.smile be friendly. if you show love others will show love in return. I am an American

  • Kathy Homfeld

    FOREIGNID: 15810
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    Was it Dain who stated that he got to Harvard on his own — top of this, top of that—and would have gone to Harvard had be been born in another family? Does he continue feel that way? How about you? Do you see the injustice in our education system, including Bush’s NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND?

  • Susan Todd

    FOREIGNID: 15811
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    I just want to say that I enjoyed this cathartic program immensely. It bothers me greatly that most of the schools with the largest endowments in the country got there start investing in the slave trade.
    Desmond Tutu has said that the US needs a Truth and Reconciliation Commission. I agreed with that the moment I heard it. Your film is a good start.
    Thank you so much for sharing this intensely personal–and yet strangely universal–journey.
    Susan Todd

  • Chris Morton

    FOREIGNID: 15812
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    I missed some of your program on PBS, but saw enough. A little background is necessary. I was born in the UK and lived for 25 years in South Africa. One of my ancestors, John Morton, was Archbishop of Canterbury (obviously prior to the Anglicanization of the RC Church by Henry VIII) from 1485-1500 (ironically, you can see his papers in the Harvard Library), but my family went with Henry when he changed it, and all of them have been Anglicans since then. I have lived in the U.S. for 27 years and am continuously amused by the antics of the white, privileged, faithful & wealthy who seem to have little to do but to repeat the past and groan in their rictus of guilt.
    I am an educator with a Ph.D. from SUNY Buffalo (sorry, my Fulbright Scholarship didn’t pay for a Princeton, Harvard, or Brown degree!). My last ten years have been spent working with inner-city children and the homeless. This is important because my work with the poor grounds my questions to you. Because of this work it has become clear to me that people do not do charity work (or request reparations for the actions of their relatives and ancestors) because they have realized that inequalities in society must be changed through their selfless actions – what the South African blacks used to characterize as the “white, liberal guilt trip” – but because of an immoral selfishness which moves them to a public action for their own benefit: that of being recognized by their immediate peers as kind, morally important beings who have, apparently, chosen to suffer with people with whom they would never normally associate; a pathetic act like Catholics who ate fish on Fridays, Jews who atone by fasting for a day, or businesses who allow their employees to work for the poor one day a year, or Anglicans who don’t eat before communion on Easter. What I saw of your film was a rather sickly-sweet rendition of an old tune. A tune played to help yourselves to a missing piece of emotionalism missing from your pointless lives without the counterpoint of having to give up anything of your privilege or wealth so that you can say to your ilk: “My, but aren’t we so good?” Here are the questions:
    1. Your involvement of the Episcopalian Church was precise and the church’s guilt is tangible. Why didn’t you demand that the Church show its admission of guilt and atonement openly? Why not demand that they go public, nationally (and internationally, given that the Anglican Church and its Roman roots have been directly involved in the slave trade all over the globe since its inception) and admit their complicity, that they agree to a period of time (say 3 years) during which their priests will preach about their church complicity and the deep sin involved, will wear something that identifies them as guilty (such as a yellow hood), will give up a high percentage of the offertory to reparations every week, and will fast completely for at least four concurrent days each month, prostrating themselves before their church altar for that period and giving themselves to prayer for forgiveness for the crimes of their church and its past leaders?
    2. Why do you and your friends (whoever you define as your friends after you have stated that you will REALLY give up something to atone for your family’s sins) give up 90% of your
    belongings and money, wear identifiable, old clothing associated with suffering (such as a hair shirt), sleep on planking without blankets, indulge in self-flagellation using a Catholic “Discipline” or by wearing a “Cilice” (available from the �Discalced Carmelite Convent of Saint Theresa,� in Italy), and eat food that the slaves had to eat? In other words stop looking for praise for your publicly attempted atonement, but agree to suffer the pain that was inflicted by your families and ancestors.
    Why not involve your wealthy alma maters in your atonement? They surely trained many of the people whose governance caused much of the suffering (didn’t George W. Bush even go to Harvard?), they spread the attitudes which maintained slavery, their early social and even scientific research formed the basis for many of the American attitudes and policies, they produced the lawyers who maintained the status quo, they made the doctors who refused to treat slaves. Where is their atonement?
    The truth is this is a form of self-serving hypocritical white liberal Americans pandering to a history of self-aggrandizement. I remember when I first arrived in this land, I went to visit Hyde Park (in NY), and went to one of the Rockefeller mansions. The young guide went on proudly about how great the Missus was in helping the poor – she fed them every day, she gave them clothes, she gave them money (sometimes), and she built schools for their male children. I asked the guide whether she really thought the Missus was so great given the fact that her husband caused and maintained the poverty that she, so famously, alleviated every day. “How could you ask such a thing?” Said the guide. “Mrs. Rockefeller gave a up a great deal to help the poor, and her husband was a great man.”
    Here’s another reason for the rest of the world to dislike Americans.
    As for your church, the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury recently suggested that Islamic Sharia should be incorporated into UK law, and all the Episcopalians can bicker about is whether it is right to have a gay Bishop. No wonder I left the church a long time ago – their crimes will simply multiply and be prayed away.
    Chris Morton
    Edited by moderator for personal attacks and language

  • Linda Anderson

    FOREIGNID: 15813
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    Dear Sirs,
    I have a computer and am writing to you on it so I am privileged more then most in the world, aren’t I.?
    Yet our family is more low income then middle. We had two learning disability children that the school system refused to make programs for as the law said. I had to quite my profession and my attempt to get more education.
    I can’t tell you how that has affected our lives in every aspect.
    How are children grew up but didn’t make it well in this world because people refused to do their jobs. Because people are prejudice.
    How people that can afford vacations; afford new, safe cars; afford health care or afford healthy food rather then so much mac and cheese and rice as fillers; how those people don’t even know they are privileged. They don’t even realize that because their parents were college educated or owned a successful business or their Aunt or Uncle or cousin, that they had a better chance in the first place. That they worked for their degrees but they had the “chance” to work for their degrees because of the privileged place their family had in our society.
    I am a Caucasian woman of 55 yrs. old. I can’t tell you how my life would have been different if my generation had been encouraged to get strong educations and not marry and have children as our female place in this world. Now I am dependant on my husband’s retirement, so forth and so on. I have the brains to have added my own retirement, my own “benefits, but the prejudice, the status known, expected for my social class never “told” me these things about how our world really works.
    We won’t even be able to afford the new TV system coming out so won’t be watching PBS anymore next year. Who was arrogant enough in this world to think they have a right to make us all get new TVs and who can afford that.
    All that to say, there is privilege, prejudice, unspoken class systems EVERYWHERE. Some worse then others and I am not saying that is “right”. But I am saying it is. It is in this human race, has been threw out history.
    Can we try to be aware if we are privileged. Can we always try to help in some way with whatever small or large amount of privilege we have those less fortunate then ourselves. Absolutely yes.
    In our lesser status we still send a little through Christian Children’s to a youngster in Equator. But just do it, whatever “it” is in your own life.
    But to select one race, one class, one income level and apologies from all others in that group – I think only those who have not struggled in regular life would think of such a thing.
    Just do “right” in whatever station you are in life. Get on with living in what is a difficult world for most of us, get on with helping, get on with doing your best in fairness. Not inventing some fake apology or reformation or whatever and then including everyone of that race – how foolish. We are all individuals and we have not all acted the same, we have not all had the same privilege no matter the color of our skin. Don’t put me in a class because of the race I am no matter what race that is, no matter what class.
    It is wonderful the DeWolf generations faced what their ancestors did, how they made their money. It is wonderful that they now know there is responsibility in privilege and they will be aware of that in whatever situation that now comes into their lives. But it is no bigger, no different, no better then any of us.
    And where are the generation descendants of the African people that betrayed their own? Where is their realization and apologies?
    Just get on with life, now, or most likely you will again put yourself above others in the process of trying to help.
    Here you are making riches, money still off your slave trading family history by writing and selling your book?
    Just get on with living the best fairness you can with what you have been blessed.
    Thanks for a chance of expression.
    Sincerely,
    Linda

  • Linda Anderson

    FOREIGNID: 15814
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    Dear Sirs,
    I have a computer and am writing to you on it so I am privileged more then most in the world, aren’t I.?
    Yet our family is more low income then middle. We had two learning disability children that the school system refused to make programs for as the law said. I had to quite my profession and my attempt to get more education.
    I can’t tell you how that has affected our lives in every aspect.
    How are children grew up but didn’t make it well in this world because people refused to do their jobs. Because people are prejudice.
    How people that can afford vacations; afford new, safe cars; afford health care or afford healthy food rather then so much mac and cheese and rice as fillers; how those people don’t even know they are privileged. They don’t even realize that because their parents were college educated or owned a successful business or their Aunt or Uncle or cousin, that they had a better chance in the first place. That they worked for their degrees but they had the “chance” to work for their degrees because of the privileged place their family had in our society.
    I am a Caucasian woman of 55 yrs. old. I can’t tell you how my life would have been different if my generation had been encouraged to get strong educations and not marry and have children as our female place in this world. Now I am dependant on my husband’s retirement, so forth and so on. I have the brains to have added my own retirement, my own “benefits, but the prejudice, the status known, expected for my social class never “told” me these things about how our world really works.
    We won’t even be able to afford the new TV system coming out so won’t be watching PBS anymore next year. Who was arrogant enough in this world to think they have a right to make us all get new TVs and who can afford that.
    All that to say, there is privilege, prejudice, unspoken class systems EVERYWHERE. Some worse then others and I am not saying that is “right”. But I am saying it is. It is in this human race, has been threw out history.
    Can we try to be aware if we are privileged. Can we always try to help in some way with whatever small or large amount of privilege we have those less fortunate then ourselves. Absolutely yes.
    In our lesser status we still send a little through Christian Children’s to a youngster in Equator. But just do it, whatever “it” is in your own life.
    But to select one race, one class, one income level and apologies from all others in that group – I think only those who have not struggled in regular life would think of such a thing.
    Just do “right” in whatever station you are in life. Get on with living in what is a difficult world for most of us, get on with helping, get on with doing your best in fairness. Not inventing some fake apology or reformation or whatever and then including everyone of that race – how foolish. We are all individuals and we have not all acted the same, we have not all had the same privilege no matter the color of our skin. Don’t put me in a class because of the race I am no matter what race that is, no matter what class.
    It is wonderful the DeWolf generations faced what their ancestors did, how they made their money. It is wonderful that they now know there is responsibility in privilege and they will be aware of that in whatever situation that now comes into their lives. But it is no bigger, no different, no better then any of us.
    And where are the generation descendants of the African people that betrayed their own? Where is their realization and apologies?
    Just get on with life, now, or most likely you will again put yourself above others in the process of trying to help.
    Here you are making riches, money still off your slave trading family history by writing and selling your book?
    Just get on with living the best fairness you can with what you have been blessed.
    Thanks for a chance of expression.
    Sincerely,
    Linda

  • Iris Chandler

    FOREIGNID: 15815
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    This was a good film. Your approach was very timid. There was a point when you all were going through the DeWolf papers and looking at the
    shackles and whip that you actually could feel you emotionally connected.
    One thing that all whites could do for Aftican Americans is to open records
    of this sort to make it easier for us to locate our ancestors and history
    whatever it be.

  • http://blog.jdewperry.com James DeWolf Perry

    FOREIGNID: 15816
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    This is Tom’s cousin, James, from the film.
    In response to Kathy’s question, it was actually my father, Jim, who said that he believed he got into Harvard on his own merit. While we had a debate at that moment, in which Katrina, Tom, and I had to argue that Jim’s admission to Harvard was definitely related to his family environment, he has since agreed with us.
    I think it’s fair to say that for Tom, Jim, and me, education is a top priority when it comes to addressing the legacy of slavery. There is indeed a great deal of injustice in our educational system. It’s not just government policies like “No Child Left Behind,” either. Family and community matter a greal deal, too. There are significant advantages to having parents who are well-educated, to having a local school system that believes students can succeed, and all the other aspects of an environment that sets children up to succeed, rather than putting up obstacles to their success.

  • Elaine Robinson

    FOREIGNID: 15817
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    How do you make permanent changes in your lives that recognize the power of white privilege and the need for white people to change, if racial justice is to be realized in the U.S.?

  • Stephanie

    FOREIGNID: 15818
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    Tom,
    Why does your family feel it is our responsibility to make ammends for past generations mistakes?
    I feel that the history of this country right and wrong is what has made us and is the reason we are here today. While I strongly do not agree with slavery we did not live at that time and we can not be held accountable for something that happened so long ago when we did not directly have a hand in. Was it wrong of people back then to deal in the slave trade?? Yes it was but it was not only the whites if you research it was the Africans that rounded up villages of Africans to bring to the slave traders so should the Africans be held accountable as well for enslaving their own people?
    Thank you for your answers I thought the program was enlightning

  • Esther Womack

    FOREIGNID: 15819
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    If you or any of your family offered an apology to the black communities of Ghana or the U.S., did the black community accept your apology? If so, did any of you feel that blacks were relieved to have an apology of any sort, or were they able to absorb the apology in your presence? Thanks for putting your family history out for the world to see, it was quite an eyeopener.

  • http://www vernell jessie

    FOREIGNID: 15820
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    You may use HTML tags for style and links. Where are the proceeds from
    your book going?If per chance they are not being used to educate
    and level the playing field after your journey into “hell” then what exactly
    was gleaned from your quest. As an African American is was painful to
    watch, to see this laid out before me. The most touching moment was when
    the black lady rejected you for entering her sacred space and you got “it”.
    There has always been the sense that white skin “counts” for something.
    Going through the 60′s as a child of the 60′s and still feeling that we cannot
    heal until we open these wounds and America apologizes and make
    ammends in terms of Payment, then we CANNOT move on. The country was
    built on the backs of black slaves, free labor, and payback is “hell”. I am
    in recovery as an African American, struggling daily to get to a point that
    the pain is eased and the forgiveness comes. It is a daily and continuing
    struggle. It is for the entire black race, if we admit it or not.

  • http://www vernell jessie

    FOREIGNID: 15821
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    You may use HTML tags for style and links. Where are the proceeds from
    your book going?If per chance they are not being used to educate
    and level the playing field after your journey into “hell” then what exactly
    was gleaned from your quest. As an African American is was painful to
    watch, to see this laid out before me. The most touching moment was when
    the black lady rejected you for entering her sacred space and you got “it”.
    There has always been the sense that white skin “counts” for something.
    Going through the 60′s as a child of the 60′s and still feeling that we cannot
    heal until we open these wounds and America apologizes and make
    ammends in terms of Payment, then we CANNOT move on. The country was
    built on the backs of black slaves, free labor, and payback is “hell”. I am
    in recovery as an African American, struggling daily to get to a point that
    the pain is eased and the forgiveness comes. It is a daily and continuing
    struggle. It is for the entire black race, if we admit it or not.

  • Vee

    FOREIGNID: 15822
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    I would like to know what, if any, spiritual or enlightened consciousness has happened in you, due to your experiences with your up close look at the enslavement of Africans? Do you see your life as benefitting from the historical enslavement of Africans and do you still consider “white privilege”
    your birthright?

  • Elaine Smythe

    FOREIGNID: 15823
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    Wow. The dialogue is at least starting to get interesting. Growing up in the late 60′s and 70′s in a racially diverse town and school system, I was afforded a better education on how to live and how to accept differences in culture for what they are. Different cultures. Racial tension was paramount, yet it never occured to me that skin color was the key to someone’s worth. What I did realize, and think about often today, is the advantage I have always had, through no effort of my own, of having white skin, blue eyes, and blond hair. I know that I can never fully comprehend what is must be like to be a black woman (or man) who has to walk into a business meeting, doctor’s office, school play, or clothing store always on the alert for, always vigilant against, an ignorant and race biased remark or worse. It must be exhausting; TOTAL understatement!! I was born with the “advantage” of having white skin, and I have done very little to stand up against racial and societal injustices even with the belief that I am no better than those “less fortunate”. Thank you for this chance for me to wake up and start acting as I believe. There is no easy, clean answer, and many cultures have suffered at the hands of “whitey”, Native Americans come to mind, so the job of repair is HUGE and may never be fully complete. But if we can realize that we have to start somewhere and acknowledging the wrong for what it is, horribly injust and evil behavior, then maybe we have a chance to right some of it.

  • Myriam

    FOREIGNID: 15824
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    I watched the documentary last night, “Traces of the Trade” and many exculpatory ideas surfaced through the documentary such as compensation. The issue between white and black is beyond any compensation. It is rooted in the heart, attitudes, and beliefs.
    My question to you is do you have any close black friends? And I don’t mean black acquaintances, colleagues, or neighbors.
    I think a lasting way of compensating others is through shedding the layers of prejudice, culture, family background, and beliefs. How about each white person reaching out (in true friendship) to a non-white person or each black person reaching out to a non-black person where the barriers of prejudice, superiority, class, and status are broken. Sounds utopian… but if we were to be blinded to the color of the skin then our sight will lead us toward healing and less separation among ourselves.

  • Lisa

    FOREIGNID: 15825
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    To the DeWolf family…Thank you ,Thank you, Thank you. The healing has begun not just for your family but for me as well. As a black american woman i am filled with deep rooted anger and pain because when we discuss racism or slavery we are often misunderstood or disregarded. We are often told that our anger is unwarranted. I felt your family “got it” and that is so important to the entire black community. Please continue to reach out to people and educate others about your family’s experience.

  • Lisa

    FOREIGNID: 15826
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    I’m finding it very distressing that alot of the comments by white people on this post display anger with the DeWolf family because they are apologetic for what their family has done. Why the reluctance to aknowledge racism or the impact of the slave trade on the black community? Why choose to deny it and quickly dismiss it as a historical blunder? It is so much more than that. The weight of slavery is unmeasurable because as Katrina Brown stated in her sermon the effects were ongoing after slavery ended e.g. jim crow laws.

  • Nury Reichert

    FOREIGNID: 15827
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    I enjoyed the program and congratulate your family for going into such a courageous journey, physically as well as spiritually. I was surprised to learn that slaves had not been aprehended at gun point by the slave traders but had actually been bartered and sold by their own leaders. That being the case, don’t the black ancestors bear an almost equal responsibility for this shameful trade? Is this being discussed? Thank you

  • Mike Reininger

    FOREIGNID: 15828
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    Last night I watched the Traces of the Trade P.O.V. show on P.B.S.
    I think the main problem with the DeWolf family is not that their ancestors were involved in the slave trade so much as the fact that they continued on when the slave trade was illegal! That means their ancestor was a certified criminal by their own country’s standards of the time. He was not any different than the modern day drug dealers who also rationalize their illegal behavior.
    Another thing I want to comment on is that the African-Americans and the African nationals are two completely different breeds of cat, much the way that Japanese nationals are completely different from Japanese-Americans; people forget that. For that African-American visiting Ghana to complain about whites in her midst sounded as racist (if that’s the word) as if I were to complain about encountering colored people in Europe had I been on an European vacation. It would be absurd and unrealistic with the modern world.
    My big gripe about people who whine about social sins, such as racism, is that they seem to forget about their own personal sins and even in their very own families. That would seem to me to take a higher precedence in concern than worrying about changing other people and even the world.
    My being a Roman Catholic is going to color my view on history much the way that Protestants or secularists have their own perspective.
    The DeWolf’s family’s one-upmanship amongst themselves regarding their college education was laughable when one remember’s how many self-taught well-educated people exist in the world. Getting an Ivy League education many times simply advertises to the world that you’ve been thoroughly indoctrinated in liberalism; not something to brag about, I think.
    I watched the show hoping to further my historical knowledge about the U.S. and perhaps I learned a thing or two, but the show also came across as an exercise in self-flogging perversity. More wisdom definitely needs to be shed on all the participants of that show. Perhaps they need to interview the writer Dinesh D’Souza.
    Mike Reininger

  • http://blog.jdewperry.com/ James DeWolf Perry

    FOREIGNID: 15829
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    That’s interesting, Mike, that you place more importance on the fact that members of the DeWolf family were sometimes breaking laws than on the nature of the business they were in.
    If I could speak with my fifth-great grandfather, James DeWolf, I wouldn’t focus on which laws he might have broken, nor would I praise him, either, for the fact that he stopped trading the moment the U.S. outlawed the trade.
    I would concentrate on what I see as the immorality, and the inhumanity, of his chosen line of work.

  • Richard Dauenhauer

    FOREIGNID: 15830
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    Congratulations on a fine show on the DeWolf family, which aired last night here in Juneau, Alaska.
    I have been involved in research on John D’Wolf (1779-1872), an American sea captain and Northwest coast fur trader of Newport RI and Dorchester MA. He was also an uncle of Herman Melville, who mentions him in two novels.
    My research is on Russian-America and D’Wolf’s wintering in Sitka in 1805, when he paddled by kayak with the German Georg von Langsdorff from Sitka to the village site on Chatham Strait to which the Tlingits retreated after their battle with the Russians in 1804 (when Baranov recaptured Sitka, after the Tlingit victory of 1802). Our book just appeared a few weeks ago, from the University of Washington Press, and is called Anooshi Lingit Aani Ka, Russians in Tlingit America: The Battles of Sitka of 1802 and 1804. D’Wolf appears mostly on pages 299-303, and von Langsdorff’s parallel account follows on pp 305-316.
    My questions: is he a cousin of some kind of James DeWolf and the Bristol family, and was he also involved in the slave trade? (John appears to have been involved only in the NWC-China fur trade, and his career is fascinating.)
    Sincerely,
    Richard Dauenhauer, Ph.D.
    President’s Professor of Alaska Native Languages and Cultures
    University of Alaska Southeast
    Juneau, AK

  • Sheila

    FOREIGNID: 15831
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    I would like to thank the DeWolf familly for having the courage to investigate their history in the trading of slaves and letting us watch the journey. Have you thought about tracing your family tree for black descedents of the DeWolf family?

  • Yolanda Vaughn

    FOREIGNID: 15832
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    I’m an African-American and I was raised in various households. I was always curious and wanting to get to know people of different colors, nationalities, etc. I wanted to learn from them; how they lived, and how we were different and alike. I wanted to applaud your family for taking the journey and the project so seriously. I don’t think it’s so much as what your ancestors did as your fault, but I do think we think the world owes us something (some of us) because of the wrongs that were done. I think we have far more opportunities than they had then and there’s certain issues we must acknowledge and come to terms with as a race to move past certain pains. I don’t feel as if anyone owes me anything, but I do wish people would do as you have done and not try to hide the past and forgive more.
    I have had the pleasure of tracking and meeting siblings that I’ve never met and we continue to get to know each other because we were separated so young and some have deep issues that they still have not resolved, and until they do that the healing cannot begin not matter who apologizes or tries to shed light. I appreciate what you’ve done and for pbs for the educational materials

  • Shirley Payne

    FOREIGNID: 15833
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    I am a daughter of 3 generations of share croppers. What was unigue growing up in my family was how the older members never expressed hatred toward whites or even pointed out the injustices they suffered as a result of their black hertiage. What I heard was the stories about being hungery and homeless. Education and working was encouraged. I watch historical programs about the black struggle in America. The images of boundage, entrapment, beatings, rape and murder grieves my heart. The tears swell in my eyes and pinges of doubt and abhorrence tear at the very fabric of my christian upbringing and human compassion. I now understand why my grandparents and parents never talked about their experiences. Maybe it was a good thing because for a long time I grew up not knowing the struggles between white and black people. My parents both had a 8th grade education. I am the oldest of nine children and the first person in my family to earn a college degree. In my family tree I have experienced and seen the effects of self-hatred and racial prejudice due to slavery, oppression and discrimination. I believe blacks should be compensated for their plight in America. If not with money(40 acreas and a mule) then with education. Allow us and our childrens children to attend a college/university of our capability, choice and free of charge. Apologies and forgiveness are necessary for healing. But action in the form of proper and lifetime education is essential to the recovery of the black human race. Thank you and your family for seeking, accepting and sharing the truth.

  • Shirley Payne

    FOREIGNID: 15834
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    I am a daughter of 3 generations of share croppers. What was unigue growing up in my family was how the older members never expressed hatred toward whites or even pointed out the injustices they suffered as a result of their black hertiage. What I heard was the stories about being hungery and homeless. Education and working was encouraged. I watch historical programs about the black struggle in America. The images of boundage, entrapment, beatings, rape and murder grieves my heart. The tears swell in my eyes and pinges of doubt and abhorrence tear at the very fabric of my christian upbringing and human compassion. I now understand why my grandparents and parents never talked about their experiences. Maybe it was a good thing because for a long time I grew up not knowing the struggles between white and black people. My parents both had a 8th grade education. I am the oldest of nine children and the first person in my family to earn a college degree. In my family tree I have experienced and seen the effects of self-hatred and racial prejudice due to slavery, oppression and discrimination. I believe blacks should be compensated for their plight in America. If not with money(40 acreas and a mule) then with education. Allow us and our childrens children to attend a college/university of our capability, choice and free of charge. Apologies and forgiveness are necessary for healing. But action in the form of proper and lifetime education is essential to the recovery of the black human race. Thank you and your family for seeking, accepting and sharing the truth.

  • http://www.inheritingthetrade.com/ Tom DeWolf

    FOREIGNID: 15835
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    NOTE TO READERS OF THIS BLOG FROM THE AUTHOR:
    The number of posts on this blog jumped from 18 to 48 in the past 18 hours so I’m going to do my best to answer as many questions as I can in as timely a fashion as I can. If any questions are closely related to others I’ll try to provide an overall response. If you feel that your question hasn’t been answered to your satisfaction, feel free to e-mail it to: info[at]inheritingthetrade-dot-com and we’ll do our best to get back to you in the near future.
    AND, feel free to go to my personal blog and join the conversation there on a range of related subjects: http://inheritingthetrade.com/blog/.
    Thanks for your patience…
    Tom

  • http://www.inheritingthetrade.com/ Tom DeWolf

    FOREIGNID: 15836
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    Margaret wrote at 3:21pm on June 24: “You can’t change who you ancestors were, but hopefully you can learn from their mistakes. It’s a complex issue and it’s hard to talk about. I’m interested in learning different perspectives on this issue. Do you think there are differences in the history, experiences, and guilt of descendants of slave owners / traders from the north and south?”
    My sense of things is that, yes, there are as many differences in history, experiences, and thoughts about guilt or non-guilt, as there are people. More than ever I’m convinced of both our shared, communal humanity (sometimes graceful and loving; far too often brutal and inhumane) AND the uniqueness of each individual’s life experience. That sounds incredibly obvious as I write it but I believe that a lot of our problems with each other is that far too often we don’t recognize or honor our shared humanity and we multiply the problem by not respecting each individual’s unique history, family, beliefs, and so forth.

  • Gerald V. Mendenhall

    FOREIGNID: 15837
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    I am descended from Quaker immigrants of 1682 who settled in the Penn Colony. Some were involved in the Underground Railroad. To my knowledge none ever participated in slavery in any other way. As a child I did not live in any area in which there were black residents. My exposure to the racial problem was “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.” I never lived or worked with blacks, not by intent but by circumstance. As a consequence I see no deserved sense in the idea of reparations. It is my opinion that if we were all to be able to search our ancestry we would find that we likely have decended from slaves at some time. The African slaves are only the last of a long line still being extended in one form or another by traders in Africa and Asia.
    It is outrageous to even consider making demands of the present Nation of USA to apologize for slavery and to believe that The Congress should create a law obligating all the citizens of the Nation to make reparations, no matter the form, to a single minority group of other citizens. Other groups came to this continent in dire circumstance and made their way out of it. Successful Africans should be glad they made it out of the perpetual misery of Africa by whatever means. Forget Africa as an excuse. It is only a place where ancestors lived and died for thousands of years, not a homeland. Allegiance is to this nation. Money should not and does not compensate emotional hate or anger for a percieved offense. It certainly does not verify foregiveness.
    It is unfortunate that the incident of slavery occurred over the many years. Few events occur as we would have them, particularly those that occurred before we were born. I do not think that the D’Wolfe family of today should believe or feel that they are responsible for any act of their forefathers; however, if their emotional state is such that they believe that subjective apology will relieve it, make it to God–there is no soul living who deserves it nor has any aurthority to forgive it. Leave the rest of us out of your personal guilt trip to deal with it ourselves as we see fit if necessary, whether inside or outside of your church. Resolutions of church bodies have no weight or authority. It is between you and your God without the mediation of a priest.
    Gerald Mendenhall

  • http://www.inheritingthetrade.com/ Tom DeWolf

    FOREIGNID: 15838
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    Amaryah wrote June 24, 2008 06:07 PM:” I was curious what kind of obstacles you encountered from yourself in taking this journey? Looking so honestly into a past like this had to be difficult for you. Was there any time when you considered not continuing to discover more about the history of your family?”
    Thank you for this observation, Amaryah. I believe that most of the obstacles we face in life are the one’s we encounter within ourselves. That was certainly my esperience. My first–and biggest–point of alarm (when I actually thought about flying home rather than continuing on) was the day before our journey began. It just hit me clearly what I was about to embark upon with 9 complete strangers. I’m grateful that another family member was with me and we talked through it all. I’ll be forever blessed to have participated in this journey. The more we studied, learned, and talked about the history the more I wanted to learn. If you read “Inheriting the Trade” you’ll get a more complete sense of my own transformation in relation to the history and how, ultimately, I have found this journey to be liberating. Consequently, the thought of discontinuing the quest for more knowledge about the history of our family and our nation didn’t grow; it diminished.

  • Elaine

    FOREIGNID: 15839
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    With all the aftermath the slave trade manisfested, to apologize for ancestral wrong doings is like taking a box of BandAids to the victims of Hiroshima and saying, “I didn’t drop the bomb, but I want to help you out.”
    I thank the people involved in making the film, and look forward to reading ‘Inheriting the Trade’. I think it’s high time that the dialogue cuts through the fear and resentments.
    Personally, MY family is from Ireland. Poor, uneducated, immigrants. White immigrants who were able to assimilate easily after one generation, who were able to get jobs, education and housing just by going to work. They were not denied the opportunities America had to offer because of the color of their skin,. My family (who were NOT the ones responsible for slavery) didn’t have to suffer generation after generation of fear, degredation, injustice, and predjudice. The fact that my ancestors didn’t trade or own slaves, that they in fact did face cultural bias and were considered “less than” by the more established white population, does not give me the right to ignore my responsibility. Neither apathy nor ignorance is an excuse any longer. We are all citizens of a global community who cannot hide from our responsibility to make things right for those who suffer from injustice. We have a choice to continue or stop the madness. To continue to lose or to start winning.

  • barb

    FOREIGNID: 15840
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    The documentary was beautifully and sensitively done..imagine my delight the day it aired on PBS here in Phila. when a friend emailed me to watch it as her daughter Jude Ray ws the coproducer and lives only 7 miles from me. Another friend had already alerted me to the airing..Ann Guise is the founder and main force behind “BrightLights” an innner city reading and self development program for gradeschoolers…10 or so of whom she took to Ghana this March to trace their roots. After the airing she was on the phone..terribly excited about the film and we are making plans to get a copy to show at our church with discussion. Kudos to you all. barb

  • http://www.inheritingthetrade.com/ Tom DeWolf

    FOREIGNID: 15841
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    DISCUSSION FORUM at TRACES OF THE TRADE website
    I also want to encourage anyone who is interested in further conversation in the future to visit the Discussion Forum at the Traces of the Trade website (http://www.tracesofthetrade.org/). There are a variety of forum topics and over 80 members so far.

  • Bob Bustamnte

    FOREIGNID: 15842
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    Hello, do you plan on making a So California Visit? and if so, would you be willing to speak about your book and venture in my African American Studies Class In Los Angeles CA?

  • http://www.inheritingthetrade.com/ Tom DeWolf

    FOREIGNID: 15843
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    In response to Bob Bustamnte’s question about whether I’ll be in Southern California and can I speak to his African American Studies class in Los Angeles I’ll give a broad response:
    One overriding goal of this journey is what happens now that the book and the film are out in the world. “What’s next?” was a common question posed to us throughout the making of the film and the writing of the book. What’s next is an outreach program. All of us will make ourselves available to visit schools, colleges, museums, churches, community groups, reading groups, anti-racism groups, conferences and conventions. Some of us will be doing outreach work full-time over the next year. Some have full-time jobs so will participate as they are able. Speakers and facilitators from the �Traces Family� who are available for screening events include Katrina Browne, me (Tom DeWolf) and other family members, as well as others who are in the film such as Harold Fields, Constance Perry and Co-Producer Juanita Brown. Email speakers[at]tracesofthetrade.org for bios, availability and fees.
    We strongly recommend using trained facilitators if you are going to host a dialogue. A discussion guide for facilitators–and other resources–are available at http://www.pbs.org/pov/pov2008/tracesofthetrade/resources.html. If you need to find a facilitator, there are many networks that can help you find someone in your area. For a partial listing of such networks please go to http://www.inheritingthetrade.com/resources.html.
    Bob, in answer to your specific question about my plans to visit Los Angeles again (I was there in February and would love to come back at some point), please send an e-mail to info[at]inheritingthetrade.com and we can discuss it further.

  • http://www.inheritingthetrade.com/ Tom DeWolf

    FOREIGNID: 15844
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    Jerry Rubin asked: “Were there other books before yours which your gleamed your research on the topic and why has this taken so long to be written and shown on TV? Finally, do you think this will be part of the American history class rather then the versions we were taught in school?”
    Absolutely. There’s a wealth of information out there. I hope to add a list of books on a soon-to-be-developed “resources” page on the website soon. If you check out the “notes” at the end of “Inheriting the Trade” you’ll see the books I specifically utilized in writing my book. Off the top of my head I recommend Edward Ball’s Slaves in the Family, Henry Wiencek’s The Hairstons, Adam Hochschild’s King Leopold’s Ghost. Just out are Douglas Blackmon’s Slavery by Another Name, Marcus Rediker’s The Slave Ship, and Ben Skinner’s A Crime So Monstrous. All are significant contributions to uncovering this part of our history that has been hidden for so long.
    There have been many books written, significant scholarship on the subject developed, and many people to whom I am grateful for providing the shoulders we can stand upon today. Our family is blessed to join this growing chorus of people and organizations who have been shining a light on the dark side of history for a long, long time.
    And please understand, I’m no masochist. It isn’t my intention to shine a light on horror and terror and the underbelly of history because I want us all to wallow in guilt and sadness. I simply believe that it is important to consider the full scope of history in order to understand how we got to where we are today.
    I do hope that our film, Traces of the Trade, and our book, Inheriting the Trade, will be utilized in educational settings around the country. We’ve been contacted by many high school and college teachers who have let us know that the book and/or film will be utilized as part of their curriculum in the coming school year. I’ve been invited to speak at several universities in the coming year. Our hope is that current and future generations of students will have a far more complete view of history in their classrooms that you and I had when we were in school.
    It is truly time…

  • http://www.inheritingthetrade.com/ Tom DeWolf

    FOREIGNID: 15845
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    Anne wrote: “I was pleased to see the transformative manner in which your family and many African Americans acknowledged the painful past and sought to heal. Your cousin Katrina Browne’s film brought a new freedom to people of all colors towards a human liberation. Do you think this liberation can impact a juster transfer of power and wealth, so that renewed trust can lead to more effective, shared outcomes across racial and geographical barriers?”
    I do believe that what you describe is possible. I believe this is one of the main reasons that my cousins and I participated with Katrina in this journey.

  • http://www.inheritingthetrade.com/ Tom DeWolf

    FOREIGNID: 15846
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    Patricia O’Hara asks, “what has been your reception from contacts with various churches?”
    To date it has been completely positive. Personally, I’ve worked most closely with Episcopal and Unitarian/Universalist people/churches and it has been a wonderful experience. I’m not personally a member of a “faith community” but see churches as places that ought to be the kind of “vessel” for difficult conversations like this. Churches profess to believe in spiritual things. Church people profess to hold each other accountable. I’m pleased with the resolutions that have been passed by the national Episcopal and UUA organizations. I’ll be speaking at the UUA annual General Assembly this coming Saturday in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
    I’ve worked with, and will continue to work with, various dioceses of the Episcopal Church of the U.S. Along with my cousins. We’ve been in contact with other denominations as well and look forward to more work on healing from these historic wounds with any, and all, religious/spiritual communities.

  • http://www.inheritingthetrade.com/ Tom DeWolf

    FOREIGNID: 15847
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    In previous posts I’ve pulled a specific question out of longer entries. In this case, I find the questions so compelling that I’m including the entire post from Nicole: “I am curious….can you identify something, like a characteristic or belief within you or your family members that prompted you to go on this trip and to explore these issues of race. I got the sense that some of your family members chose not to come. Is there something that you all had in common or did you all have different reasons for embarking on the journey? The rationale for the question–is there something extraordinary about you and your family or was it just a willingness to take the leap into these issues? Is it your elite family background highlighted in the film that compelled you all to get involved? I think it is a powerful, poignant journey that you’re on (just because the film has aired, doesn’t mean your journey’s are over), but I wonder what about others? Will others embark on similar journeys or is your family unique?”
    Thanks for this, Nicole. I would guess–I’ve not had this conversation with my cousins–that each of us had our own reasons for participating in the journey Katrina designed. There were certainly other family members who chose not to participate. Some because of job, family, and other obligations and some because they did not support what Katrina was doing.
    I don’t perceive anything extraordinary about any of us, or our reasons, who chose to participate. Some may have–I honestly don’t know; haven’t asked–been influenced by some form of guilt, belief in justice, curiosity, or a combination of these and other reasons. My perception is that the common thread was willingness; willingness to confront issues, to take time away from family and employment, to be vulnerable in an effort to do our part to make the world a better place for our kids and grandkids (and ourselves). It was nothing extraordinary in my opinion. It’s what we humans do for the most part. We try to be, and do, our best. We try. We stumble. We try again.
    AND, most important to me of what you wrote, no, the journey is NOT over. It definitely continues through this blog, through the conversations you are having with your family and friends, Nicole, through people who read my book and think deeply about ways in which we–collectively and individually–can help each other heal from deep wounds.
    Will others embark on similar journeys? Of course they will. You just did…

  • Glenn Dotson

    FOREIGNID: 15848
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    Tom,
    The world has changed considerably since the time of your journey. I am interested in understanding your perspective to the Obama campaign for president. Do you sense that this is “the” opportunity in some sense for reparation by casting a vote for an African American candidate?
    Thanks, Glenn

  • http://www.inheritingthetrade.com/ Tom DeWolf

    FOREIGNID: 15849
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    Kay Stroud asked: “Did you have the same set of reasons, goals, priorities and motivations for joining this “vision quest” when you originally started out as those you truly finished with? Question two: Taken in the many broad issues it covers (and lack of time and space) what about the Native Americans and do you think approipriate reparations have been made? I find it just to try to do something but whatever is and may be…is not enough.”
    The answer to the first question is that for me personally, my reasons evolved as I became more aware of the issues and my connection to them. It was a very natural progression.
    As for indigenous people, Indian people, I had the liberty of a lot more space in my book than Katrina had in a 90-minute film so I deal a lot more with the connection between slavery and the Trail of Tears (a direct connection, by the way), for instance, and the enslavement of indigenous people before African people were ever brought to the shores of what became New England, and the annihilation of Indian people through the policy of “manifest destiny” by European immigrants.
    Have appropriate reparations been made? I answer with a few questions: do all Americans have equal opportunities? Does everyone have equal access to education, housing, and health care? Is everyone treated equally within and by the criminal justice system? If your answer to any of these questions is “no” then appropriate repair of the damage has not been accomplished.

  • http://www.inheritingthetrade.com/ Tom DeWolf

    FOREIGNID: 15850
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    Sandy wrote about access to education; particularly in light of the scene in the film where we sat around the dinner table discussing privilege and where our fathers went to college.
    Sandy, yes, I do believe that we can learn a lot from studying the educational opportunities afforded people of European descent compared to people of African descent (along with political influence, land ownerships, etc.). There is a direct connection. When the G.I. bill after WWII was designed to benefit white people in ways that black people were not allowed to benefit, it was an affirmative action program for white people. The descendants of those G.I.s inherited the benefits–or lack of benefits–from their parents. Does it help explain disparities in wealth, land/home ownership, and privilege today? It seems like a pretty clear indicator to me…

  • http://www.inheritingthetrade.com/ Tom DeWolf

    FOREIGNID: 15851
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    Glenn Dotson writes: “The world has changed considerably since the time of your journey. I am interested in understanding your perspective to the Obama campaign for president. Do you sense that this is “the” opportunity in some sense for reparation by casting a vote for an African American candidate?”
    You know, Glenn, there is a politically correct answer out there and I’m going to resist the temptation to use it. It’s too late at night and I’ve been at this for too long today. So I’m just going to write from my heart and let the chips fall where they may. I do not consider Senator Obama’s candidacy to be “the” opportunity for reparation. I do consider it “an” opportunity for another step on the path toward healing. We tip-toe around the gigantic elephant of “race” in the living room of our country to the best of our ability. But think about this. Forty years ago Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was murdered after speaking in support of garbage workers in Memphis, Tennessee. During that time I watched the television news being hosted by Walter Cronkite as black people were assaulted by fire hoses and police dogs as they protested for the rights they should have received when our Constitution was adopted almost two centuries earlier.
    Today an African American man may well become the President of these United States. Reparation? In the sense of the word I use it–repair, healing–yes, absolutely. The election of Barack Obama will carry with it a degree (I obviously don’t know how much) of healing; of repair. People in other countries will view us differently than they do now. We will view ourselves differently than we do now.
    Will it solve racism, inequity, injustice? No. It certainly won’t be that simple. In the words of Professor Kofi Anyidoho of the University of Ghana at Accra, we have built up centuries of scars over unclean wounds. In order to heal we must do the work of removing the scars in order to clean the wounds properly to begin healing.
    It’s up to us. It’s a lot of work. It may well be the great human endeavor of the 21st century. I sure hope so.

  • http://www.inheritingthetrade.com/ Tom DeWolf

    FOREIGNID: 15852
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    Lascelles Anderson asked, “Has any effort been made to connect with African-American descendants of any of the slaves from the deWolfe “business” to get their response to any of the large questions your work raised?”
    The only African people I’m aware of that the DeWolfs owned were Adjua and Pauledore, two people who were brought from West Africa by James DeWolf and given as a Christmas gift to his wife in 1803. They stayed with the family throughout their lives. Adjua died three years after the end of the Civil War. Pauledore and Adjua married and had several children; all daughters. We don’t know any of their descendants. Adjua D’Wolf’s headstone stands in the DeWolf cemetery not far from the grave of the man who enslaved her.
    The 10,000 African people the DeWolfs brought to the West Indies and North and South America were mostly sold to others and we have no record of who they were. Those who remained on the plantations in Cuba remain a mystery. The relationship between the U.S. and Cuba makes it exceedingly difficult to do any research.
    That said, we have met one African American man who we believe may well be related. We have been unable to locate proof. I also received a call from an African American man in Florida who says he’s descended from the marriage of a white DeWolf ancestor and his African American wife from the mid-19th century. This is an area of research I hope to pursue in the future.

  • http://www.inheritingthetrade.com/ Tom DeWolf

    FOREIGNID: 15853
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    Among other things, David Ben-Ariel wrote (at June 25, 2008 12:32 AM), “What an orgy of shame! I endured Traces of the Trade and discovered nothing new in it except for perhaps the disgusting depths that self-hating, bleeding heart white liberals, will descend to and self-righteously insist on dragging everybody else along with them.” And… “Reparations are not the solution, especially if we subtract what blacks have cost America.” And much more…
    David, with this and everything else you wrote, you and I disagree. I appreciate that you took the time to watch Traces of the Trade. My focus is on working with people with whom I share a belief in the inequity of the systems in our nation and what we can do to level the playing field. Your focus on repatriation and separation makes no sense to me.
    I don’t feel guilty. And I’m not interested in dragging you, or anyone else, with me. You disagree with what our family hopes to achieve in terms of repair, integration, and understanding among people who have spent centuries misunderstanding each other. I can live with that and hope that you can as well.

  • http://www.inheritingthetrade.com/ Tom DeWolf

    FOREIGNID: 15854
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    High School teacher Bob McHugh wrote: “Do you deal with the issues of special advantages and having the proper family connections in ‘Inheriting the Trade?’”
    Yes. One of the advantages of writing a book is having a lot more space to dive more deeply into these issues.

  • http://www.inheritingthetrade.com/ Tom DeWolf

    FOREIGNID: 15855
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    Susan Dittman takes groups to the eastern Caribbean to do service projects and hopes to educate participants more regarding the history of slavery and plantation life. She asks, “What suggestions would you have for us to make this more than educational? How do we best get folks to probe their own feelings about race, power, responsibility, privilege, etc. I’d greatly appreciate your suggestions for specific activities.”
    I’d recommend either gathering prior to your journey to talk about these issues, use Traces of the Trade and other resources as conversation-starters, recommend reading Inheriting the Trade and other books, check out the work of Peggy McIntosh, Tim Wise, and others regarding race, power, and privilege, and provide the time and opportunity during your time there for continuing conversations. If you go to the “links” section of my website there are several organizations that you may be able to connect with for your own training as you strive to train others: http://www.inheritingthetrade.com/resources.html.

  • http://www.inheritingthetrade.com/ Tom DeWolf

    FOREIGNID: 15856
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    Gertrude Frey (who wrote June 25, 2008 01:31 AM).
    Thank you for your heart-felt words. As you continue your journey I sent my best wishes for good health and peace for you and those in your life.

  • Patricia

    FOREIGNID: 15857
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    As an avid genealogist, and the “keeper” of the family history, I’ve been blessed with discovering many interesting facets of my ancestors. Some of these facets are less than “politically correct”, in the scope of modern American. Most notable is the number of Confederate soldiers in our history. I have often been asked to explain how Southerners can possibly want to honor men who fought (and lost) for the Rebel cause. There really is a simple explanation: In today’s time of war, there are many citizens against our being in Iraq. I hope that not one American would say they do not honor our soldiers, who are serving so proudly. After watching the film, I almost got the impression that several of the family members were ashamed of the DeWolf patriarchs. It is with great hope that one day my gr-gr-gr grandchildren will look back at the actions of our generation in the proper context. Isn’t it possible to hate the actions of men, while still honoring the men, themselves? “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do. (Luke 23:34)”

  • Mike Reininger

    FOREIGNID: 15858
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    I just finished reading the rest of the comments and questions on this blog and to the writer who comments about us all possibly having slaves in our family tree let me share the story of one of my ancestors who had been both a slave (indentured servant) and a slave master.
    His name was George Eskridge and was born circa 1660 in Northern Wales. He died in November, 1735 in Westmoreland County, VA.
    According to one tradition (as I copy from my Daughters of the American Revolution records), he was kidnapped into an impressment gang while walking along the coast in Northern Wales as he was studying a law book. He was subsequently sold into servitude for eight years to a Virginia planter. He was treated harshly and forced to sleep on the hearthstones in the kitchen of his master’s home. After eight years of servitude, he returned to England, completed his law studies, and was admitted to the bar. He then returned to VA and was a member of the VA House of Burgesses almost continuously from 1705 to 1735.
    George Eskridge was named guardian of Mary Ball circa 1721 when she was 13 till she married Augustine Washington in 1731. Mary Ball named her son “George” Washington after “George” Eskridge.
    Now, it’s my understanding (with my limited historical knowledge), that most of the slaves (indentured servants) before Bacon’s rebellion in 1676 were white/Europeans. After that time period, Britain then thought it wisest to institute what we today call “race-slavery”.
    Dinesh D’Souza asks in his book titled: “The End of Racism”, I believe it’s in chapter 3 if my memory is correct, “Was slavery a racist institution?” So here with the giving of my example of George Eskridge, one can see how in the 17th century, slavery was not completely a racist institution but rather just a cultural product of its time.
    Slavery is still a horrific evil nonetheless. Perhaps the worst aspect was the busting apart of the families in some circumstances. As far as the whipping of laborers/slaves, that was a common procedure in early America even amongst whites in the military; for example, just read “Undaunted Courage” by Stephen Ambrose about Lewis and Clark’s journey.
    Recently I read the book “Life and Times of Frederick Douglass”. What an enlightening book and one I recommend to everyone. I believe Frederick Douglass was a genius. Perhaps his having rubbed elbows with the New England elite had rubbed off on him. But then I also read the biography of President Andrew Johnson and could understand how poor whites could feel intimidated by black slaves that came from aristocratic plantations and hence Andrew Johnson’s resentment of the freed slaves and also slave owners.
    Thanks again for Traces of the Trade on P.O.V. I’m always eager to add to my knowledge of American history, although I have no intentions of being any kind of scholar pertaining to the subject of slavery.

  • Kay Hall

    FOREIGNID: 15859
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    Tom,
    This film reminded me of this contrast: Thomas Jefferson sitting in his study writing of the sins of slavery while 200 of his slaves were outside laboring in his fields and William Wilberforce spending his life dedicated to the abolition of slavery. Both knew slavery was wrong but one was motivated to fight it rather than profit from it. Wilberforce’s deep personal faith in God was the difference!
    Do you really think that inviting people to discuss race issues and promoting knowledge of past sins of our ancestors will be enough to change people’s minds and actions? Don’t get me wrong…I liked the documentary and thought it was an interesting journey for your family and for the viewers. It might even get people to think about these issues but will it motivate a white family to seek out a black family to befriend, feed the poor, sacrifice some comforts to help someone else? You said the church might be the place to start..I agree.

  • Don Ulmer

    FOREIGNID: 15860
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    When in West Africa were you able to contact descendants of the Africans who sold the slaves to De Wolfe? Their attitudes?

  • Linda Evans Miller

    FOREIGNID: 15861
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    Sir Tom, I found the film hopeful. I grew up in South Carolina, and lived through the integration of schools; my sister was the first black to graduate from Airport High School, and the rest of us were the first blacks to attend an all-white school from our neighborhood. Some of what I experienced was painful, but I would not trade those times. I think what you and your family are doing is very brave.
    My question: how do I get to have a dialogue with you and or your relatives. How do we get you to come to a townhall meeting, etc? I live in Washington state. Your Go Ducks! was awesome!
    Also, I would like to know if the other 180 relatives who chose not to participate still communicate their with you or even share even more concerns regarding your journey?

  • Sheila

    FOREIGNID: 15862
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    My question about tracing your tree for black relatives of the DeWolf family was in relations to a further healing process as you continue your journey. I too watched “Jefferson in Paris” and see a similarity. When the white descendant’s of Thomas Jefferson finally welcomed their black relatives they began to heal.

  • http://www.inheritingthetrade.com/ Tom DeWolf

    FOREIGNID: 15863
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    Within a long post (read the full post above, June 25, 02:31am, to get the full context) by Chris Morton–who was born in the UK and lived for 25 years in South Africa and has lived in the U.S. for 27 years–is this: “Truthfully, now, all you people are is a group of self-serving hypocritical white liberal Americans pandering to a history of self-aggrandizement, aren’t you?”
    Truthfully? No, I don’t believe so. We are a group of people who sincerely are making an attempt to, in the words of Ghandi, become the change we want to see in the world.
    Chris also wrote, “Keep it up guys. You simply give the rest of the world another reason to despise Americans.”
    If there are those who despise Americans for attempting to heal from historic wounds in ways that we hope will bring us closer together and recognize our shared humanity with the sincere hope that we’ll stop treating each other so horribly… I don’t really have an answer for you Chris. I do wish you well in your continued work with inner city children and the homeless. And I hope you’ll find a place in your heart to consider the possibility that there are people among us who want to do right for a variety of reasons–selflessness being one among many.

  • http://blog.jdewperry.com/ James DeWolf Perry

    FOREIGNID: 15864
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    Patricia, I think it’s safe to say that several of the family members are ashamed of their DeWolf ancestors, as you suspected.
    The difficult question is, how are we to think about such historical figures, whether in our own family tree or in our nation’s history? Do we honor them for who they were, and what they accomplished, in the context of their times? Or do we scorn them as violating what we now consider to be fundamental ethical principles, even if that behavior was widely accepted in their day?
    I’m not sure there are easy answers here. George Washington didn’t believe that women ought to vote or participate in public life; we reject that attitude, but few of us refuse to honor him on that basis. Can we extend that principle to those who supported slavery, or is that too much to accept? If it’s too much, does that mean we condemn all our ancestors? As the film points out, virtually everyone at the time was complicit in, and benefited from, slavery.

  • http://blog.jdewperry.com/ James DeWolf Perry

    FOREIGNID: 15865
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    Linda, we’d be delighted to have a dialogue with you, or appear at a town meeting, etc. To make a request, visit http://www.tracesofthetrade.org/buy-use-the-film/.
    You can also visit the film’s page about the family members to see who lives in or near Washington State.

  • http://www.inheritingthetrade.com/ Tom DeWolf

    FOREIGNID: 15866
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    Within a long post by Linda Anderson (June 25, 03:33am) about our shared humanity as people are these words: “Just do “right” in whatever station you are in life. Get on with living in what is a difficult world for most of us, get on with helping, get on with doing your best in fairness.”
    Thank you, Linda. I couldn’t agree more…

  • http://www.inheritingthetrade.com/ Tom DeWolf

    FOREIGNID: 15867
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    Elaine Robinson asks, “How do you make permanent changes in your lives that recognize the power of white privilege and the need for white people to change, if racial justice is to be realized in the U.S.?”
    That’s the key question, Elaine. For me the first step is awareness, education. Once I knew the truth I became responsible for it. We each then have the choice about what we’re going to do with that responsibility. I choose to do my best, recognizing that I’ll stumble and bumble about from time to time, connect with like-minded people on the same journey, and keep trying. It is as complicated–and simple–as everything else that matters in life.

  • http://www.inheritingthetrade.com/ Tom DeWolf

    FOREIGNID: 15868
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    Stephanie asks, “Tom, why does your family feel it is our responsibility to make amends for past generations mistakes?”
    I believe it is my responsibility to leave this world in better shape than it was when I entered it. The study of history, to me, is to help understand how we got into the position(s) we currently find ourselves in. There is nothing I can do for anyone who was enslaved, or who was an enslaver, 200 years ago. But we can do something about the lingering effects of the legacy of slavery that we’ve inherited today. Look at any social indicator you like–access to housing, health care, jobs, education, treatment within the justice system–and people of European descent are significantly better off than people of African descent. For me it isn’t so much about making amends for the past as it is being committed to making things right in the present.
    If you read my book, Inheriting the Trade, I go into these issues more in depth than I’m able to do here in this blog. But I hope that helps explain things a bit better.

  • http://www.inheritingthetrade.com/ Tom DeWolf

    FOREIGNID: 15869
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    Esther Womack wrote, “If you or any of your family offered an apology to the black communities of Ghana or the U.S., did the black community accept your apology? If so, did any of you feel that blacks were relieved to have an apology of any sort, or were they able to absorb the apology in your presence?”
    I’d like to devote a great deal of time and space to this issue of apology because it is so important, but time and space don’t allow it. AND, I deal specifically, and at length, with this issue, both in the abstract and in my personal experience with apology to black folks in my book. I hope you’ll pick it up either at your local library or bookstore. I learned a great deal from Aaron Lazare’s book “On Apology” and highly recommend it as well.

  • http://www.inheritingthetrade.com/ Tom DeWolf

    FOREIGNID: 15870
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    Myriam writes, “My question to you is do you have any close black friends? And I don’t mean black acquaintances, colleagues, or neighbors.”
    The most significant blessings that this journey has brought into my life are the deepening, authentic, accountable, and loving relationships I now have with people of African descent and people of European descent who are committed to a life of honest reflection and honoring our shared humanity. When we take the time to enter into–and commit to sustain–meaningful relationships with others, we find out what matters in life. This, to me, is grace.

  • http://www.inheritingthetrade.com/ Tom DeWolf

    FOREIGNID: 15871
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    Nury Reichert writes, “I was surprised to learn that slaves had not been apprehended at gun point by the slave traders but had actually been bartered and sold by their own leaders. That being the case, don’t the black ancestors bear an almost equal responsibility for this shameful trade? Is this being discussed?”
    It is discussed briefly in the film and at more length in my book. There are countries in Africa–Benin is one that comes to mind–that have offered apologies for their role in the historic slave trade.

  • http://www.inheritingthetrade.com/ Tom DeWolf

    FOREIGNID: 15872
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    Richard Dauenhauer, professor at University of Alaska Southeast has been researching Captain John D’Wolf, uncle to Herman Mellville, who sailed in the area of Alaska on a fur-trading mission two centuries ago. Richard asks, “is he a cousin of some kind of James DeWolf and the Bristol family, and was he also involved in the slave trade?”
    “Nor’west” John was James DeWolf’s nephew, son of James’s brother Simon (who died at sea). I discuss John briefly in my book as well. I can’t recall whether John was ever involved in the slave trade as a captain or crew member, but he was a member of the third, and final, generation of the family that was involved in the trade.

  • http://www.inheritingthetrade.com/ Tom DeWolf

    FOREIGNID: 15873
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    Linda Evans Miller asked, “How do we get you to come to a town hall meeting, etc? I live in Washington state.”
    In addition to what James wrote about being in contact with us, Linda, two of us from the film live in the Northwest, me in Oregon, Elly in Washington. So depending on where you live we can probably work this out. To anyone else who is interested in having one of us come to your university, high school, church, library, or other community group, let us know and we’ll see what we can do.
    Speakers and facilitators from the “Traces Family” are available for screening events including Katrina Browne, Tom DeWolf and other DeWolf descendants, as well as others who are in the film such as Harold Fields, Constance Perry and Co-Producer Juanita Brown. Email speakers@tracesofthetrade.org for bios, availability and fees.

  • Deborah Howe

    FOREIGNID: 15874
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    Deb Howe, here, one of the cousins who chose not to go on the journey with the 10 cousins who did. I just want to say that Katrina’s invitation created great interest in our extended family, and generated a lot of discussion within this very large group.. Some people, as has been noted, were completely opposed to the project, others were curious but not interested enough to pursue the issues, others were open to further exploration. For me, the premise of the journey — to explore our family’s history and its legacy today — was intriguing, but the time and expense needed to travel to Ghana and to Cuba was too great.
    Each member of the Family of Ten made an huge commitment to the project. It should be said that those of us who were not in positions to make that kind of commitment, but who supported the project, did participate in it closer to home. In addition to Katrina’s inviting cousins to make the Ghana-Cuba-Bristol pilgrimage, she extended an invitation to us to gather in Bristol a few weeks after the Family of Ten returned from their journey, to hear what they had seen and experienced, and to discuss the issues that our familiy’s history raise. I believe that at least 45 of us accepted the invitation.
    We spent Memorial Day weekend in 2001 meeting each other, hearing about the journey, learning more of this history, touring DeWolf sites in Bristol and finding out how the slave trade was woven inextricably into American society. We discussed our beliefs, fears, hopes, and values, and were challenged to think more deeply and with greater clarity about the complex issues of racism, privilege, access, apology, and forgiveness at all scales. Katrina and her production crew introduced us to historians, scholars, members of our own family (black and white), and to each other, and filmed the entire weekend’s worth of discussions. (None of this footage showed up in the final film, given the short format and the need to focus closely on the Family of Ten’s experiences.)
    Those of us who hadn’t been on the journey did not know what to expect; some were wary, some were tearful, some were simply receptive to what the weekend might reveal. By the end of the weekend we were not necessarily of one mind, but we all did see that without addressing these issues among ourselves, and with others regardless of race, then, as Tom says, the scars will still remain.
    Katrina, Tom, and the others have shown with their work that avoiding the painful issues of race, privilege, disadvantage, access, etc. gives greater power to fear, anger, shame, and despair, while bringing them to light and discussing them creates greater possibilities for reconciliation and repair. This forum seems one good way to keep the conversation going.

  • http://blog.jdewperry.com/ James DeWolf Perry

    FOREIGNID: 15875
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    Hi, Deb!
    I just want to confirm that DeWolf family members who, like Deb, were unable to commit the time (or raise the funds) to travel on the overseas journey, have nevertheless contributed enormously to the project.
    Labor Day weekend in 2001 is perhaps the most prominent example of how such family members participated in our journey, but they have been supporting us, and doing their own work around these issues, and we are grateful for everything they’ve brought to the effort. Thanks, Deb!

  • Dave Emmi

    FOREIGNID: 15876
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    Congrats to Katrina, Tom and all others who were involved in making “Traces of the Trade”, “Inheriting the Trade” and other projects that help to tell this important story regarding American history. It is a complicated, esoteric and elusive issue with many dependent and independent variables. In short, there are not many easy, clear cut answers to many of the important questions posed in the documentaries. That considered, I do believe that some of the variables can be defined, (for example, the complicity of the Episcopal Church), and definitive steps can be taken toward reconciliation. My two questions are (in the hopes of a signed book):
    1) Have you examined the role of indentured servants in Colonial America? Their plight was tatamount to slavery. They had masters, could not gather, socialize, etc., without the permission of their master. If they were sick for work of day, years were added onto their service. Many also died in the voyage to America. In fact, these servants were predecssors to the slaves. Introducing this aspect might help to advance what might be the root to the documentary. Extreme economic advancement at the extreme expense of others. In short, hyper-greed.
    2) Do you plan to come to Philadelphia? This is where the nation started, and northern slavery is a popular topic here at the moment. Last year the nation’s first White House was excavated. Disturbing information about Washington’s slaves was uncovered.
    Again, “great job” to everyone involved.

  • Luis Azcona

    FOREIGNID: 15877
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    Hi Tom,
    I am a first generation American with both parents native to Cuba.
    I am of mixed ethinicity with strong Afro-Cuban roots (Mulato).
    While watching the special, I realized that my ancestors were probably
    brought over to the Americas, from Africa, by your ancestors. Very interesting!
    Anyhow, I just want to say that I admire you, Katrina and the rest of the family members that were brave enogh to confront the reality of your history.
    Most people would be content to sweep this kind of past under the rug. You are very special people.
    Luis

  • Luis Azcona

    FOREIGNID: 15878
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    Hi Tom,
    I am a first generation American with both parents native to Cuba.
    I am of mixed ethinicity with strong Afro-Cuban roots (Mulato).
    While watching the special, I realized that my ancestors were probably
    brought over to the Americas, from Africa, by your ancestors. Very interesting!
    Anyhow, I just want to say that I admire you, Katrina and the rest of the family members that were brave enogh to confront the reality of your history.
    Most people would be content to sweep this kind of past under the rug. You are very special people.
    Luis

  • http://www.inheritingthetrade.com/ Tom DeWolf

    FOREIGNID: 15879
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    Response to Dave Emmi (three posts up from here). He asks two questions:
    1) Have you examined the role of indentured servants in Colonial America?
    No, it wasn’t part of our journey. I do discuss the enslavement of indigenous people that the first Europeans encountered when they arrived on these shores.
    2) Do you plan to come to Philadelphia?
    Philadelphia is Katrina’s home town so there has been tremendous media coverage there (see articles on the media coverage page of my website for two articles that have appeared: http://www.inheritingthetrade.com/media.html).
    Katrina and I came to Philadelphia in April for two screenings of Traces of the Trade, followed by Q&A, at the Constitution Center as part of the ongoing “Legacy of 1808″ series of events (http://inheritingthetrade.com/blog/?p=109) commemorating this year’s 200th anniversary of the abolition of the U.S. slave trade.
    There will undoubtedly be more events/screenings in Philly in the future. Tomorrow at 1:55pm, I’ll be interviewed on “The Karamu” program on WURD if you want to listen in.

  • Justin

    FOREIGNID: 15880
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    Tom
    I enjoyed Traces of the Trade. I to have De Wolf ancestry that also were not involved with the slave trade. I think the best message to come out of this film is that there are a lot of Americans who shared in the blame of the slave trade and profited by it. This was not just the south. I think it is great that the family has admitted that what happened in the past is wrong and they are not going to glorify the legacy of their slave trading ancestors. I thought it was so sad the anger and hostility that was shown by some towards white people as a broad generalization. We should be honest with our pasts but we need to learn from them and move past the hatred. I am white and my family has never owned or benefited by the slave trade in anyway. Most of my ancestors moved to the United States shortly before the Civil War and never had any ties whatsoever to the slave trade, and for that matter many of my foreign ancestors fought to abolish slavery for the Union in the American Civil War. The problem we face today is guilt by association attitude just because I am white does not mean that I or millions of others like me have ever had any ancestor who ever owned or benefited from the slave trade. Even presidential candidate Barack Obama who looks African American has no American slave roots and has white ancestors who were slave owners. People like this carry more blame than you or I, Should people like this apologize? What about these broad generalizations of American people in general. Does every white person need to apologize just on the fact that we look white? Is that not racism?

  • Kay Hall

    FOREIGNID: 15881
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    Tom,
    I have been discussing the documentary and your blog with anyone who would listen to me for the past day…I plan to watch the complete program again tonight having tuned in during the inital broadcast in case I missed something. I am intrigued by the conclusions most of your family members and you seem to have drawn….that it is possible to effect social change through dialogue and education alone. I earlier referred to Wilberforce as an example of a person who powerfully showed us the way to effect change, by allowing our very real sin to be transformed by God into lives of love and service. There is no other way to racial reconciliation (reparations are impossible and misguided and unhelpful) than to love our brothers and sisters as Christ loved and loves us. We in the Chistian evangelical community would do well to listen to what you and your family are saying and double and triple our efforts toward racial reconciliation.
    My son gave me Shelby Steele’s “White Guilt” to read after hearing me rant about my inability to understand where you are coming from. I cringed at the hateful words of some of your bloggers who disagreed with the whole effort. I do appreciate the story and the journey your family is making but if you really expect to effect change, go to the Change-maker.

  • Patricia

    FOREIGNID: 15882
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    James,
    First of all, I appreciate your response. Now as to the crux of the problem: “As the film points out, virtually everyone at the time was complicit in, and benefited from, slavery. …does that mean we condemn all our ancestors?” James, we cannot change history. The paths of our lives are such an intricate weave, and too our history. I’m reminded of the infamous movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life”, regarding the delicate balance of history. Was the Slave Trade an atrocity? Absolutely. Were the men who participated evil, racist xenophobes? Probably not. The fact remains that there is no way to atone for the atrocity. And, in my opinion, there is no reason to denigrate our forefathers.

  • http://www.inheritingthetrade.com/ Tom DeWolf

    FOREIGNID: 15883
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    Dear Luis, thanks for your post. I look forward to our paths crossing one of these days. I’m certain they will. I appreciate your kind words…

  • http://www.inheritingthetrade.com/ Tom DeWolf

    FOREIGNID: 15884
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    Justin wrote, “I am white and my family has never owned or benefited by the slave trade in anyway. Most of my ancestors moved to the United States shortly before the Civil War and never had any ties whatsoever to the slave trade, and for that matter many of my foreign ancestors fought to abolish slavery for the Union in the American Civil War. The problem we face today is guilt by association attitude just because I am white does not mean that I or millions of others like me have ever had any ancestor who ever owned or benefited from the slave trade.”
    Justin, I agree with you that guilt is a counter-productive feeling and I don’t encourage it. And at the same time I disagree with your fundamental premise. Your ancestors arrived shortly before the Civil War and so you think there’s no connection between your family and slavery. How do you think America became the land of opportunity? The stolen labor from African people built this country (including the White House and Monticello). When your ancestors walked off the ship at Ellis Island they walked into a two-tiered society in which they were immediately accepted into the upper tier. They had access to jobs and housing that were denied to black people. They could move more rapidly into the middle class and above as a result. I don’t say this to try to induce any guilt. I say this in the hopes that you’ll recognize the incredible privilege your ancestors received the moment they stepped foot on American soil.
    There is much to consider in all this…

  • http://www.inheritingthetrade.com/ Tom DeWolf

    FOREIGNID: 15885
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    Dear Kay Hall,
    I so look forward to our paths crossing one day. Your passion for reconciliation shines bright. Your statement that “There is no other way…” concerns me. I love that your son gave you Shelby Steele to read. When you get a chance to read my book please be in touch. I look forward to a lively conversation…

  • http://WWW.MYSPACE/SBDAD1 GERARDO ALONZO JACOB

    FOREIGNID: 15886
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    I HOPE THIS MAY HELP YOU AND ANYONE ELSE WHO RESTLES WITH THE ISSUES YOUR FAMILY BROUGHT TO LIGHT IN THE FILM. ” REMEMBER THAT THE BIBLE SHOWS US THAT BEFORE “THE LAW” THERE WAS “GRACE”. THE WOMAN WHO COMMITTED AUDULTERY….SHE KNEW WHAT SHE HAD DONE YET JESUS SHOWED AND APPLIED GRACE FIRST BEFORE THE LAW. THANK YOU FOR WHAT YOU ALL DID AS A FAMILY. YOU ALL SHOWED US GRACE IN ACTION, STRENGTH, COURAGE AND HUMILITY AND MOE NOTICABLE TO ME WAS THAT WHEN YOU WERE IN YOUR OWN “GARDEN OF GETHSEMENE”, YOU DID NOT ASK GOD TO TAKE “THE CUP” AWAY FROM FROM ANY OF YOU AS A FAMILY. MAY GOD CONTINUE TO USE YOU ALL ACCORDING TO HIS WILL. GOD BLESS, GERARDO

  • Kurtlane

    FOREIGNID: 15887
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    I turned it off in disgust without watching to the end. What a bunch of hypocrites made this movie. Slavery is not over! it’s going on right now!!! I’ve seen it with my own eyes in Brazil. And it’s in Africa too. I don’t know about Ghana. but I know it’s in Sudan, Mauritania and Mali. And other places. And the reason I don’t know about Ghana and the rest of Africa is because the very leftists who make films like these are hiding the information from us.
    And why one doesn’t hear about what’s going on today? Because the slave-masters in Africa are mostly Muslim, and covered up by the mighty Muslim oil money. Saudi Arabia and other oil states protect their own, and the world keeps quiet and instead makes films that pile up more guilt on great-great-great-great-great-grandchildren of white (and only white – others are forgiven) slave-owners.
    If there were one grain of honesty in the people who made this movie, they’d start a movement to end slavery, a modern abolition movement. Because it’s badly needed. But no, they’d rather stick to the same banal approach of heaping more guilt on the descendants of white (and only white) slave-traders and slave-owners.
    So what has changed since the bad old slave days? The skin color and religion of slave-traders and slave-owners. Other than that – nothing.
    I wonder whether there is slavery in modern Ghana. Because if there is, it means that Ghana is commemorating the horrors of the past and ignoring what’s being done today. I wonder if there are slave-owners among the people who cry for the slaves of the past.
    Makes me suspicious that Tom DeWolf, who made this film, just might own his own slaves.
    Makes me want to throw up.

  • http://www.inheritingthetrade.com/ Tom DeWolf

    FOREIGNID: 15888
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    Thanks for writing, Kurtlane, and expressing your position so passionately.
    Please understand, I AGREE WITH YOU in what I believe is your main point regarding slavery today. Allow me to explain further:
    For whatever reason(s), Traces of the Trade didn’t connect with you. I respect that. Perhaps if you had watched the whole film it would have made more sense to you; perhaps not. You would have seen my cousin James, for instance, express his concern that white people could make the mistake of focusing on the past rather than the real consequences people face today. Perhaps if you read my book it will become clearer to you; perhaps not.
    The purpose of the journey we took–and are still taking–was, and is, to look at the history of slavery precisely in order to consider the legacy of slavery and how it continues to impact us–all of us–today. I study the past in order to understand the present and to impact the future.
    Estimates are that that 27 million people are enslaved today around the world; including right here in the United States. I’m not talking about people living in lousy conditions working for low pay. I’m talking about people who are bought and sold. They are forced to work in agriculture, manufacturing, prostitution, the production of chocolate, gold, bricks, and jewelry, and so on. I encourage you to read A Crime So Monstrous, by Ben Skinner. It deals directly with the issues you raise: modern day slavery.
    People were blind in their complicity 200 years ago when their support of slavery was as mundane as wearing cotton clothes or putting sugar in their tea; giving no thought to how those commodities were produced. The same happens today.
    I hope you’ll give our film and book another try, Kurtlane. But if not, please understand that our family stands beside you in hoping to shine a bright light on modern day slavery along with racism and oppression of all kinds, with a goal of educating people, working together, building trusting relationships, and breaking down the walls that divide us in order to undo racism, to stop modern day slavery, to offer each other a little grace in a world that sometimes seems so harsh.

  • alan paul

    FOREIGNID: 15889
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    As an African American and direct descendant of slaves-this documentary and book is EXTREMELY eye opening as well as emotionally & mentally disturbing. All my life-being an intelligent and articulate African American male, I’ve been attacked and ostrasized by white america. I recently moved to south Georgia oout of sheer desperation and frustration (in dealing w/racist and uncaring white people in south florida) only to in the past year experiencing more racism than I have in my 52 years of life. I began to thank God in my prayers for allowing me the ability to live long enough to actually experience the racial hatred and abuse that many of my ancestors experienced, as related in history books and journals from slavery up to the 60′s. Only to find out first hand after moving to Waycross, Georgia-that it still exist TODAY. Then my prayers were answered further by this HUGH documentary-actually in my lifetime, white people actually admitting and taking a minute degree of responsibility for SLAVERY. I would love to speak to Ms. Browne and other members ofher family in an effort to seek some form of closure.

  • Mark Bigley

    FOREIGNID: 15890
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    Tom:
    First of all, I appreciate your courage in writing this book and your vulnerability in revealing your family history.
    I was wondering if you read Farrow’s, Lang’s and Frank’s “Complicity: How the North Promoted, Prolonged, and Profited from Slavery.” If so, do you see it’s contents as congruent with your family history? I found it to awfully revealing and it demonstrated the harshness of the times.
    I also wonder if your efforts alongside this and a few others, will actually have an effect in changing the pulbic educational system’s teaching of that era in its revisionist history of the cause of the War Between the States that has been taught over the last century: that the cause of the secession of 7 states (the others didn’t secede until Lincoln called for troops) and war was about slavery instead of economics of the Morril Tariff which taxed southerners at 39% to provide corporate welfare for northern industry. The Constitution at that time protected slavery so there was no cause for the southern states to secede in order to protect it.. The northern invasion of the south was to protect the northern industry that was dependent on the southern tariffs. In 1860 70% of the federal budget came from Virginia, North and South Carolina and Georgia. Of course this is only part of it.
    Do you think this will have any effect on changing the way history is taught in the public schools?
    Again, thank you for your efforts to bring a little more reality to American History.
    Mark

  • Cia

    FOREIGNID: 15891
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    I am the descendant of slave owners, an Irish man, born in 1800 named Moses Baine who married in Baltimore and traveled to Texas with his wife Cecelia Englesby, where they went up the Brazos River to settle with Stephen Austin’s colony. Moses fought at San Jacinto and was given some land. He helped to found St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Brenham, Texas, Washington County. His daughter and son-in-law, a man who was Jewish when he lived in his native Poland. He emigrated to New York to live with an uncle when he was 19. In a letter he wrote during the Civil War, he told his wife to look after the slaves.
    I was shocked when I learned these ancestors owned slaves, and upon inquiring into this among the real genealogists of the family, heard that they had treated their slaves (among them Jack and Lucy) kindly. Well, that seems to be what they ALL said! I would like to hear the descendants of the slaves side of the story, but I doubt there are any Baine or Levinson African American descendants left. The Baine descendants benefitted from their early positions in the growing colony and new state of Texas. Some suffered from the Civil War (the Jewish merchant supposedly had his store destroyed by rioting ex slaves– this makes me wonder if he had been so nice, after all).
    I am always upset when those with advantages pretend to be self- made. All of us depend on the help we get through life, and we white folks, just by being white and having the cushion of family wealth of some kind can never claim to have done it alone. Many slave holding Christians claimed that the dark African skin was the “mark of Cain” and this fable reinforced their behavior. The myth of “black blood” still plagues us today.
    “The Lost German Slave Girl ” is an interesting history of a true story of a woman who had to Prove she was white in pre Civil War Louisiana! Another account of interest to this show is “Slaves in the Family”, about the Ball family and their slave holdings, and how one of the descendants looked up the descendants of Ball slaves to hear their side of the story.
    I have had the good fortune to grow up away from Texas without some of the heavy layers of racism, even though my mom was raised by Southerners. My dad lived in Mexico as a young man and had very good experiences with our neighbors to the South. We also were able to travel there extensively. I never heard that black people were bad, but there was some kind of fear of the Other that I picked up.Maybe it was Poverty.
    Many of my Texas relatives had different experiences with African Americans. One elderly cousin was afraid when a black fraternity came to her Texas town. I wondered it this was detritus from fearing slave revolts when the slaves outnumbered the masters and had every right to revolt.
    I hear these comments some times about African Americans “costing” the government money, but doesn’t racism cause the trauma? This complaint of cost is from ignorant people who do not realize that it was the back breaking labor of people taken from their native countries against their will and treated as sub human who were responsible for the riches of the South. They did all the hard work in the North and the South. Why do we never put that in our text books in bold lettering?
    We truly need a truth and reconciliation for our sins of the past. Slavery is a grave sin against humanity and must be recognized in our past as a country. We must never do this again, nor tolerate it anywhere. A recent report on Sex Slaves in Houston Cantinas was heartbreaking. Let us vow to drive the institution of slavery into extinction.
    And let us not forget the sacrifices of all who protested and organized and died to bring us more racial equality. We are not free until all are free.
    As to my share in the collective guilt of our role in peculiar institution of slavery… yes, I am ashamed, to the point of vowing to not continue slavery into the future.
    I do my part to try to understand and not pass along racism. Our children grew up hearing about the Underground Railroad and the brave slaves who were able to escape. We read Frederick Douglass and other slave accounts, including the WPA interviews with former slaves.
    Wouldn’t it also be lovely if Obama, in his words a “Halfrican-American,” were our next president? He embodies what our future will look like–White, Black, educated in Hawaii, Indonesia, Harvard, Columbia. I respond to his intelligence and his vision.
    And Michelle O? Wouldn’t it be great to have a Real Woman in the White House?

  • http://www.inheritingthetrade.com/ Tom DeWolf

    FOREIGNID: 15892
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    To Alan Paul who, at the end of his powerful post on his experiences as an African American male in Florida and Georgia, wrote: “I would love to speak to Ms. Browne and other members ofher family in an effort to seek some form of closure.”
    If you go here (http://www.tracesofthetrade.org/family/) there are e-mail addresses for many of the participants in our journey. Please be patient as we’re doing out best to catch up with the hundreds of comments, e-mails, and other communications that have come our way as a result of the P.O.V. screening of Traces of the Trade on PBS.

  • http://www.inheritingthetrade.com/ Tom DeWolf

    FOREIGNID: 15893
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    Mark asked if I’ve read “Farrow’s, Lang’s and Frank’s “Complicity: How the North Promoted, Prolonged, and Profited from Slavery.” If so, do you see it’s contents as congruent with your family history? I found it to awfully revealing and it demonstrated the harshness of the times.”
    Yes I have read this book and I heartily recommend it and its broad look at the variety of ways in which the North was involved in slavery and the slave trade.
    Mark also asks, “Do you think this will have any effect on changing the way history is taught in the public schools?”
    I sure hope so, Mark. Along with many other recent books and films that broaden our understanding of the founding of our nation and our history up to, and including, what is happening today, I hope teachers find Traces of the Trade and Inheriting the Trade to be useful tools. We’ve heard from many teachers at the high school and college/university level who have said they plan to utilize our film and book in the classroom. Several members of our family have visited classrooms across the nation at the invitation of middle and high schools as well as colleges and universities. We encourage people to spread the word to their friends who are teachers. As we all know, education is the key to understanding not only our history but its implications for life today.

  • jennifer mcmullen

    FOREIGNID: 15894
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    I was wondering how you skirted the ‘unlawful’ entry into Cuba? I was under the impression Americans were forbidden to travel to Cuba? I once had an opportunity to travel to Cuba but declined due to the travel taboo associated with such a journey.

  • http://blog.jdewperry.com/ James DeWolf Perry

    FOREIGNID: 15895
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    Since Tom isn’t online right now, Jennifer, I’ll respond to your question about our travel to Cuba.
    While U.S. tourist travel to Cuba is forbidden, there are a variety of categories under which travel to Cuba is permitted under licenses from the Treasury Department. These include travel for journalism, research, education, and conferences, among other purposes. We were fortunate enough to be able to travel lawfully to Cuba from the U.S., under this system.

  • http://www.inheritingthetrade.com/ Tom DeWolf

    FOREIGNID: 15896
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    Thanks for answering that one, James. The one bit I would add, Jennifer, is that this was pre-9/11. So the ability to obtain cultural exchange visas for the family members and journalist visas for the film production staff was simpler then. We flew right out of JFK International in New York City directly to Jose Marti International in Havana.

  • Fernando Colondres

    FOREIGNID: 15897
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    This film which I did n’t know anything about it until Bill Moyers showed a clip of it, was astounding.
    I am a Latino citizen of this country. It is my belief that if we can recognize as a nation that we slaved the African-American ancestors and even many African-Americans as recently as before World War II we ALL (Americans)can benefit from the healing process.
    We need the truth to keep coming out about our histories and this film about the biggest slave trade families in American history is the beginning. We need reconciliation for our sins of the past. We need to RECONSTRUCT this society. Slavery is a grave sin against humanity and must be recognized in our past as a country. We must never do this again, nor tolerate it anywhere.
    Our classrooms has to start teaching the truth.
    My sincere sympathy for Katrina Brown and the rest of the DeWolf family for their bravery in coming to terms with their past and in turn helping the nation to establish for the first time a real dialogue that will help ultimately all citizens of this nation. What a great time for this film and story to come out when Barack Obama is one of our presidential candidates. A black and white African American. This is the time to heal, reconstruct and move on.
    Fernando Colondres

  • BARBARA FELLOWS

    FOREIGNID: 15898
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    I could not finish watching the program because of the tears. I had automatically recorded it, and might not have watched it at all, except my sister from California called and told me about it. When I heard tKatrina say “there were some things we never talked about”, I was sadly reminded of my own family.
    My Grandfather had green eyes. I didn’t know why. When I was in my late teens, I came across a family photo of my Grandfather as a young man and his family taken before 1910. I asked my mother, who is that little dark-skinned lady with the white hair? She told me that little dark-skin lady was my Great-grandmother Nancy. She had been born a slave, and had run away from Sudley Plantation in Maryland. She was 7 months pregnant with my Grandfather, the Grandfather with the green eyes. She somehow managed to make her way to Washington, DC. She had run away because someone had told her that if she got to Washington, her child would be born free. My mother had known this, but my Father, Aunts and Uncles never mentioned anything about her. They were all ashamed because she had been a slave. So all I know about her is the little that my mother told me about the the little dark-skinned lady with the white hair in the photo. I told some of my friends about her being a slave at Sudley Plantation, and they asked me if I planned to visit Sudley. I said I would visit Sudley only if I had enough money to purchase it and then burn it down. Then, I’d call out to my Great-grandmother Nancy, and tell her I am not ashamed.

  • Robert Barkovitz

    FOREIGNID: 15899
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    The show “Traces of the Trade” was magnificent. I was spellbound for the whole show often catching myself with my mouth unintentionally agape.
    Now my problem!!
    I told people about the show and how they absolutely HAD TO SEE IT. It is not being repeated on ANY PBS station in the NYC metropolitan area for at least 2 weeks.
    WHY? Every PBS show is repeated a number of times. Has this show struck a nerve in the area?
    Ironically, a friend, whose brother lives in Bristol, RI, did not see the show, nor his brother. He wanted to tape the show for himself and his brother. He can’t.
    Does anyone have an explanation??

  • http://blog.jdewperry.com/ James DeWolf Perry

    FOREIGNID: 15900
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    Robert, thanks for asking about showings of Traces of the Trade. Each film in the series P.O.V. seems to be typically shown twice, but it’s entirely up to local PBS stations.
    In the NYC metro area, the documentary will also air at noon today on WLIW World. This is a digital channel from Long Island which, I understand, reaches the metro NY area and is available over-the-air and on some cable and other systems.
    In Bristol, R.I., the film will air on Rhode Island public television, channel 36, on Thursday, July 3, at 9:00pm, and on their affiliated digital channel, WSBE Learn, on Tuesday, July 8, at 9:00pm.
    There are a great many people who missed the broadcast, and while we can’t arrange for additional television broadcasts, there will be DVD sales offered through our web site. For more information, and to sign up to be notified when the DVD is ready, people can visit http://www.tracesofthetrade.org/buy-use-the-film/.

  • http://blog.jdewperry.com/ James DeWolf Perry

    FOREIGNID: 15901
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    Robert, thanks for asking about showings of Traces of the Trade. Each film in the series P.O.V. seems to be typically shown twice, but it’s entirely up to local PBS stations.
    In the NYC metro area, the documentary will also air at noon today on WLIW World. This is a digital channel from Long Island which, I understand, reaches the metro NY area and is available over-the-air and on some cable and other systems.
    In Bristol, R.I., the film will air on Rhode Island public television, channel 36, on Thursday, July 3, at 9:00pm, and on their affiliated digital channel, WSBE Learn, on Tuesday, July 8, at 9:00pm.
    There are a great many people who missed the broadcast, and while we can’t arrange for additional television broadcasts, there will be DVD sales offered through our web site. For more information, and to sign up to be notified when the DVD is ready, people can visit http://www.tracesofthetrade.org/buy-use-the-film/.

  • http://www.lynnemarch.com Lynne Machetti

    FOREIGNID: 15902
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    Not sure I can still be one of the 25 book winners …but if I can I’m ready to accept your generous gift of a signed book!
    Thank you x100 for your honest emotional, physical, intellectual and spritual journey. I just watched the PBS show and was truly awe struck throughout the entire presentation. With so much denial regarding the truth of slavery it is a wonder any of us can piece together any semblance of the truth. Thank you to your family for being brave enough to step into the murkey, murkey waters of the Black African/American Slave Holocaust.
    My question to you is if you were to re-edit Amercian history to add in the truths you discovered about the actual slave trade what would you give as a TITLE to this period of time as a whole. Second part of this quesiton is what would you title it as it started and as it progressed and as it stands today?
    Thank you for your time on this questions. Sincerely, Lynne Marchetti

  • Frederik DeWolf

    FOREIGNID: 15903
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    I wonder how many other DeWolfs you have heard from?
    More than a few years ago, while living in Newport, Rhode Island I happened to stumble upon the role of the DeWolfs in Bristol’s history. My family originally emigrated from Holland and using web resources I could never find a connection between our family and the Rhode Island DeWolfs.
    Have you found other families that want to distance themselves from yours or have you found they have now been inspired to join in the discovery?

  • http://www.inheritingthetrade.com/ Tom DeWolf

    FOREIGNID: 15904
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    Lynne Machetti writes: “…if you were to re-edit Amercian history to add in the truths you discovered about the actual slave trade what would you give as a TITLE to this period of time as a whole. Second part of this quesiton is what would you title it as it started and as it progressed and as it stands today?”
    Interesting questions, Lynne. Thanks. Fortunately, history is being re-edited all the time, so there are all kinds of titles already expanding on history. Words that come to mind that apply to your questions, however, are “inheritance” (because we ALL inherit from the past) and “legacy” (same reason). As Harold Fields says in the film about reparations–and his words apply to learning about history, using what we learn in our lives today, and hopefully creating a better future for our children–perhaps it is best to recognize that this is a process and not an event.

  • http://www.inheritingthetrade.com/ Tom DeWolf

    FOREIGNID: 15905
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    In reply to Frederik DeWolf, yes we have encountered many DeWolfs I/we didn’t know before we began this project. Of course, the people who are approaching us are people who have interest in making the connection. If people related to the DeWolfs want to maintain distance from us I suspect they simply wouldn’t make contact. It seems I can hardly visit a bookstore, library, school, museum, or film festival without meeting more relatives. The furthers from me genealogically was a 10th cousin. I’ve spent the night in homes of people I’ve never met before, simply because we are seventh cousins and we are both interested in learning more family history from each other.
    The bottom line answer is that there are people who want to know more about this history and people who want to avoid it, which isn’t too surprising.

  • Cole

    FOREIGNID: 15906
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    I just don’t understand why you and your family feel you should carry the burden of your early ancestors. Perhaps my moral values are different than your’s but I just couldn’t sit around feeling miserable over something that began 300 years ago and was abbolished in 1865. I feel your focus is in the wrong direction. I didn’t see you parading through the ghetto with a camera asking their feelings on reparations. I did see educated wealthy African American citizens in the documentary claiming whites have to take responsibility for the damage that was caused by slavery. The problem is the majority of the lower class or poverty level African Americans in this country aren’t willing to help themselves.

  • http://blog.jdewperry.com/ James DeWolf Perry

    FOREIGNID: 15907
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    Cole, I don’t think anyone’s interested in carrying around the burden of the past, or in feeling miserable about ancient history.
    I think the issue for all of us, in different ways, is that the legacy of the past still remains with us.
    I would be very surprised, for instance, if your moral values allow you to ignore injustices which have benefited you and which have harmed others. I suspect that this is simply the result of different understandings regarding how the past has affected the present.
    As for your belief that the majority of blacks living in poverty simply “aren’t willing to help themselves,” do you believe that this is true of the majority of whites living in poverty, who are far more numerous?
    Do you believe that any negative attitudes you may perceive among the blacks living in “the ghetto” — such as the poor work ethic you’ve referred to — are unrelated to centuries of enslavement and another century of brutal discrimination, during which hard work and education, to take two examples, could not be rewarded under the prevailing laws and social mores? If you see no connection, then to what do you ascribe the problem? The inherent nature of one race compared with another? Or something else?
    Finally, I’m sure you don’t deny that the free black population in late 1865 had very little in the way of education, wealth, good jobs, homes, schools or community institutions, or that blacks still have much less of these things today. If you really don’t believe there’s a connection, would you not at least agree that for any individual person, being born into a family with far less makes it much harder, and requires more work, skill, or luck, to succeed than for someone born with more? If this is far more likely to describe someone born black, shouldn’t we expect fewer blacks to succeed, even assuming people subscribe to the self-help ethic to an equal degree?

  • James Shortway

    FOREIGNID: 15908
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    Mr. DeWolf Perry, I am just going to write my thoughts I won’t edit or go back and reread any of this to ensure that you are only getting my deepest feelings and not some well manicured piece in which I hide behind words. I was asked by Cole to come in here and share some of my thoughts, I didn’t see the documentary that everyone is speaking of so unfortunately I am slightly ignorant on some of these topics. However from your response to what he wrote this is what I can see. You have written that you would be surprised if his moral values allow him to ignore injustices that he has benefitted from. Are you profiling stating that all white people benefit from the slave trade? I am confused, see Cole and I met in the Army. He came from Saint Louis where he was raised with next to nothing and I had very much the same upbringing in New Jersey. I am the son of a Machinist a very humble trade. My family didn’t have some secret college fund I joined the Army and was struck by three Improvised Explosive Devices to earn my seat in the College which I now attend. If there is a secret white person club that gives us benefits please forward me the address and a list of the benefits because I would LOVE to sign up. I am under the belief that reparations are already being paid to the black community, see inner city schools are being funded by my tax dollars from the full time job I work in addition to being a full time student. My bank account consists of what I made this week as a machinist (just like my father.) I work with a black man who although he has a huge chip on his shoulder and always attempts to tell me the benefits of being white he has yet to prove any of these to me. Did I mention that he makes more money and I have attended trade school and he has not. His attendance is also less than stellar and he is known to just not show up for weeks at a time with no explanation. Make no mistake that if I did this I would be collecting unemployment. I am of Irish heritage (Colvin) and my family was not in America during the times of slavery. As a matter of fact my great grand father jumped off the boat in which he was brought to America on and swam to shore because he was brought here as an indentured servant. To desire to cast an impending sense of guilt on me for the actions of people that I only share a skin color with is the same as holding Barrack Obama responsible for a rape committed by another black man. Furthermore, I am confused by your statement that there are far more white people living in poverty than black people. If welfare numbers are any evidence of this I can see that 38 percent of people on welfare are white and 37 percent are black. I cross referenced this information with the national census that was taken in 2000 and found that 12.4 percent of the nation is classified as african american and 75 percent is considered caucasian. This would lead me to believe that your information although well intended is misleading. That is if you desire to go by numbers and percentages. I also know that the African American that I work with, ( I hate this term because he knows nothing of living in Africa.) but that being said, also has several children born out of wedlock, he also drives a BMW luxury car that I would gladly trade my Hyundai accent for. He lives in low income housing although nearest I can figure his family’s income is greater than 75k per year. He chooses to live in the community in which he does so I don’t feel bad that his children are getting a less than stellar education. Did I mention that in addition to his wife he also has a girlfriend on the side? Should I now be surprised that two of his four children are following in his footsteps? One is just like dear old dad because at sixteen he already has a child that he is being sued for child support and the other is about to start a long stint in prison. At nineteen his son is no stranger to the justice system and this is certainly not his first offense. Am I surprised that the children have a predisposition to using and selling drugs after a lifetime of watching their father do the same? Now I know where this will lead, you are probably thinking that you can pass this off as something so simple as this is all due to slavery and the poverty in which they grew up. I already told you that the father chose for his family to live in poverty. In addition there are many indian families in this area of America who live in poverty, they are willing to sacrifice their lifetime for the greater benefit of their children whom are being sent to medical schools at an alarming rate. Why are these poverty stricken Indian families not sharing the same percentage of numbers of convicts from their community. I refuse to believe that this is all some overhang. Is it a far stretch to think that it has more to do with Gangster rap? Which seems to be the music of choice for the black community? Why can no black man I ever met name the last slave in his family if they care so deeply concerned about the hardships which they endured? I am also sure that you would agree that most people living in the Ghetto have it far better than most people living in Africa. Can we can look at Liberia as an example of slavery also? Was that country not created by freed American slaves? A country in which women are paid approx. 1 dollar a day to work in the sex trade and the rate of HIV is increased at an alarming suspected 5.9 percent a year? Why do you suspect that your ancestors were trading Africans and not Germans, or Greeks? I am not saying that given the same upbringing that any child has a greater predisposition to being smart, fast, strong, or any other attribute but I am sure that we can agree that the glamorization of drug abuse breaking of the law probably has much to do with the present situation which plagues African Americans. If you want to make a difference and prove something sir, by all means stop profiting from this, if you firmly believe that what you have today is because of the actions of your ancestors I charge you to give it all to the black community, walk away and don’t collect any money from any of this. I can’t make assumptions about your present financial situation but due to your myopic views I can assume that you were raised in a life with a certain amount of money and feel that the majority of white America shares in this. Well sir we don’t. Many of us fight and work daily for what we have. So please if you want to show America what you believe in drain the family bank account. Don’t collect any money from speaking engagements, and never utter another word about slavery and make a living like the rest of America, I believe this is the best homage that can be paid to the Millions of African ancestors who are now having their terrible misfortunes sullied by greedy people with their hands out. Want to do an experiment before you swear off the comfortable life which you have been given. Tell black people that you will put the money away for the future black community (say three generations from now.) Watch their reaction. I bet it is one of rage! It seems to me that it is another clear cut example of wanting something for nothing. As if quotas, affirmative action and programs like the NAACP, united negro college fund, ACLU were not enough of an advantage.

  • Toni

    FOREIGNID: 15909
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    One thing that seemed to be missing from the Traces of the Trade story were, where did the slaves initially come from? Who was responsible for shackling them to begin with? If I remember correctly, the other tribes captured these people and enslaved them for trade value. For rum? Were they forced into trading? Unless the white people came into Africa and put the initial shackles on these African peoples then where is the accountability of the initial source of the capture and enslavement of their own peoples?
    I, in no way, believe any type of slavery to be right in any capacity. Women of all races have been captured into slavery of some form for generations. We can’t even get the ERA passed. Does this mean at some point there will be reparation paid to women for all the lower pay and lack of rights that were initially denied them?
    It seems to me that there was slavery from the beginning of time. People take others into captivity so that they can own their property and land. This has been a prolific downfall of man and forms still exist today.

  • Toni

    FOREIGNID: 15910
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    You may use HTML tags for style and links.One thing that seemed to be missing from the Traces of the Trade story were, where did the slaves initially come from? Who was responsible for shackling them to begin with? If I remember correctly, the other tribes captured these people and enslaved them for trade value. For rum? Were they forced into trading? Unless the white people came into Africa and put the initial shackles on these African peoples then where is the accountability of the initial source of the capture and enslavement of their own peoples?
    I, in no way, believe any type of slavery to be right in any capacity. Women of all races have been captured into slavery of some form for generations. We can’t even get the ERA passed. Does this mean at some point there will be reparation paid to women for all the lower pay and lack of rights that were initially denied them?
    It seems to me that there was slavery from the beginning of time. People take others into captivity so that they can own their property and land. This has been a prolific downfall of man and forms still exist today.

  • http://blog.jdewperry.com/ James DeWolf Perry

    FOREIGNID: 15911
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    James (Shortway), since you’ve addressed your remarks to me, I’ll take a stab at responding.
    I apologize in advance to everyone else, since this will necessarily be a rather lengthy comment, but I believe James demonstrated the sincerity of his beliefs with the length of his remarks, and I am grateful that he was willing to share his views with us.
    Yes, I do argue that all Americans (and not just all white people) benefit from the legacy of the slave trade. Slavery and the slave trade generated enormous benefits to the U.S. economy, both directly, through the sale of slaves and cheap, slave-produced commodities, and indirectly, by supplying the capital needed to invest in manufacturing during the early industrialization of the U.S. These economic benefits gave the U.S. an edge at a critical moment. The consequence is that the U.S. is today the leading economic power in the world, and its citizens enjoy one of the highest standards of living on the globe.
    While the circumstances of each individual person do vary, the standard of living of almost all Americans greatly exceeds that of the average person on this planet. Meanwhile, it remains the case that white people do have an easier time getting an education, jobs, bank loans, and so forth; this “white privilege” is another important aspect of the legacy of slavery.
    It’s true that not all white people are wealthy. While I haven’t suffered in war as you have, for instance, I grew up with very little money, and like you, certainly didn’t have a secret college fund to allow me to pay for college tuition, either.
    You, like many Americans, believe that “reparations are already being paid to the black community.” This is not the case. Whites benefit far more from government programs, including welfare and school funding, than blacks do. Moreover, the issue isn’t whether our poorest citizens, of all races, are receiving assistance. It’s that black families are demonstrably behind white families by all economic measures, as a consequence of slavery and the discrimination which followed. For more, see here and here.
    For more about the day-to-day privileges of walking through this society with white skin, regardless of income level, see here.
    I certainly agree that we should never let factors based on race blind us to individual circumstances. Nor should we fall into the trap of thinking that white people are “guilty” for the sins of the past or the inequities of the present.
    You also write, “I am confused by your statement that there are far more white people living in poverty than black people.”
    According to the U.S. Census, in the most recent year available, there were 22.7 million whites living in poverty in the U.S., and only 8.1 million blacks. Likewise, according to the most recent data I have at my fingertips, 61% of welfare recipients were white, and 33% were black.
    What disturbs me about your comment, as well-intentioned as it was, isn’t the facts and figures. It’s that you seem quite comfortable talking to us about a co-worker whose lifestyle and family you disapprove of — and attributing that behavior to the rest of his race. One aspect of “white privilege” in the link I provided above (to the work of the esteemed Peggy McIntosh) is precisely that few people will judge all members of your race based on a handful of examples.
    You raise a fair question when you ask why other non-white immigrant families can often do better than the average black family. Most legal immigrants to the U.S. arrive with valuable education, savings, and job skills. They aren’t starting from scratch, so comparing them directly to another group doesn’t work. Perhaps just as importantly, black families in this country have inherited the results of a long history of discrimination and violence. This can lead to anger, cynicism, and distrust. For too many generations, for instance, education and hard work were not tickets to upward mobility for black families. This sort of legacy does not always die easily.
    You write, “Is it a far stretch to think that it has more to do with Gangster rap [than the legacy of slavery and discrimination]?” Yes, I think that’s a real stretch. I think you overestimate how many adult blacks listen to that particular music, but the real issue is that it’s an art form which primarily reflects, rather than creates, the cultural attitudes it portrays.
    You write, “Why can no black man I ever met name the last slave in his family if they care so deeply concerned about the hardships which they endured?” Perhaps because in many proud, free black families, slavery was long considered something shameful. They were reminded of slavery constantly by the white majority, and many freed slaves and their children and grandchildren did not talk of such matters. Many black families now work very hard to track down word of their enslaved ancestors.
    You write, “Why do you suspect that your ancestors were trading Africans and not Germans, or Greeks?” Well, partly because their slaving voyages were exclusively to ports on the African coast, where few Germans or Greeks were for sale.
    You write, “I am sure that we can agree that the glamorization of drug abuse breaking of the law probably has much to do with the present situation which plagues African Americans. ”
    We cannot agree on this, James. The plight of black Americans, by all socioeconomic measures, has existed with little change since the days immediately following slavery. It did not come into being with the rise in the drug problem in this country, nor did it grow all that much worse.
    You write, “I can’t make assumptions about your present financial situation but due to your myopic views I can assume that you were raised in a life with a certain amount of money.” You’re wrong about that, I’m afraid. My myopic views are purely the result of my own personality and innate limitations. While I was, indeed, raised with “a certain amount of money,” it sounds like it may have been the amount you were raised with.
    Finally, you suggest that blacks would be enraged if they were offered reparations to be paid in three generations. I suspect many blacks would, like me, be horrified at the idea of letting people suffer for three more generations. But you should know that most people I’ve talked with about this subject focus, above all else, on investment in education. This hardly seems, to me, as though it’s a sign of greed or wanting immediate benefits, but rather to pass benefits on to future generations.

  • http://blog.jdewperry.com/ James DeWolf Perry

    FOREIGNID: 15912
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    Toni, the film does mention that enslaved Africans were captured and sold by other Africans. In fact, there’s a scholar in the film who discusses this issue specifically.
    As for accountability, I have observed a remarkable willingness in Africa to admit their society’s complicity in the slave trade. I don’t mean that everyone is willing to acknowledge it, or to do so without any hesitation or reservation, but the contrast to this nation is remarkable.
    Is there any other form of accountability that you would like to suggest? Financial accountability is obviously out of the question for impoverished nations, especially since their current economic state is largely the result of the brutual effects of colonization and exploitation after the slave trade ended.
    I strongly agree with you that slavery has been a universal phenomenon, and needs to be understood in that context. I’m less comfortable with your comparison of slavery and gender discrimination, but certainly the case for addressing injustice with regard to women is a compelling one.

  • Elizabeth de Veer

    FOREIGNID: 15913
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    Hi James,
    I have not read the blog yet (I am printing it now to read later – wow that’s a lot of stuff!) so I apologize if I am asking a question that has already been asked.
    I saw the film last night and was moved to tears. I am a middle-class white woman, raised northern Virginia. We knew all about slaves but since my family is from New England, it did feel like somebody else’s history. Your family’s experience proves it: slavery is the history of all of our families.
    What I kept thinking was, it’s time people stop saying that slavery was something that someone else did in another time, etc. and stand up and say – my people were a part of this. It was not right. It was terribly wrong. And I am deeply sorry.
    But you know, it’s time to start doing the same thing with how we interact with the environment too. We all need to learn what the real impact our quick drives to the grocery store have, what impact the grocery store has, where our food comes from, where our fuel comes from, what becomes of our trash, and all the rest. I really believe there too that we need to stand up as people who care and say – we can do more. We can learn more. We can become more active.
    I guess I seem them as connected because 150 years ago, people were – as Katrina said in the film – sitting in their homes in Connecticut and saying, we are not a part of the slave trade. But they were drinking the rum and tea, and using the sugar, and participating sort of blindly in so many ways. That’s what makes me want to talk about – what am I participating in blindly?
    This all seems vague as I start to put it down and I know I could eek out a great deal more meaning if I had time and paper, but I will simply leave it at this: my question is – do you see any connection between these issues?
    I send many thanks to you and your family for having the courage to embark on this journey. It is so SO important.

  • http://blog.jdewperry.com/ James DeWolf Perry

    FOREIGNID: 15914
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    I do think that there’s a connection, Elizabeth, between the issues of slavery and the environment. And I think you’ve described it quite well.
    The common issue between these concerns is that it’s far too easy to engage in practices which seem perfectly normal at the time, and which later generations will condemn as barely understandable. In this case, our descendants may well have a hard time understanding why we continued to treat the environment in ways that we knew would be deeply harmful to them.
    This is why I think it’s so important to look honestly at our history. In this case, we need to ask, why did the DeWolfs do what they did? How is it that they, and almost everyone in their society, thought that this practice was acceptable?
    This is why I think we need to confront certain historical facts squarely:
    - the DeWolfs were not seen as exceptionally greedy businesspeople, but rather as ordinary, even upstanding folk doing particularly well at making a living
    - most people in northern society seemed to accept the slave trade without question, and a great many invested in the trade or profited directly by doing business in support of the trade
    - those few people who questioned the slave trade, or even objected to it, nevertheless generally seemed to consider this to be merely a polite matter of disagreement among civilized people

  • Cole

    FOREIGNID: 15915
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    What if the government decided there would be no more wellfare? What if the idea of reparations to African Americans over the slave trade was also thrown in the garbage where it belongs? Would these people who live in poverty, all races included, to take appropriate actions to better the lives of their families and poverty stricken communities? If your success came from hard work after coming from next to nothing then why can’t other’s? The reason the emphasis on my argument mainly touches on the black community is because they only make up approx 12% of the U.S. population but 39.5% of the prison population. Is that due to slavery or bad parenting? Whites make up approx. 80.2% of the U.S. making the white population around 160,000,000. The number I have on wellfare are whites making up 38.8%, blacks being 37.2%, 17.8% being hispanic, and 6.2% being other races. There is five times the number of white people recieving wellfare so its makes sense they have more recipients. Allthough if the races were equal in population the number of blacks on wellfare would be more than remarkable. Does this seem unfair to blacks? If so also ask is it fair to blame an entire race for the hardships of another? I’ve been to war. Every day for a year and made about $25,000.00 that year which may not be poverty but is close. My father drives a truck and can’t pay for my schooling when I get out of the Army but I can guarantee I will be in school and get a degree when the time comes. I earned my G.I. bill. I don’t expect a free ride to become successful or at least to support a family and with that said claiming because I’m white I benefited from atrocities of slavery is as absurd as directly relating the tendecy of blacks to committ crimes to slavery.
    Edited by moderator for language

  • Cole

    FOREIGNID: 15916
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    What if the government decided there would be no more wellfare? What if the idea of reparations to African Americans over the slave trade was also thrown in the garbage where it belongs? Would these people who live in poverty, all races included, to take appropriate actions to better the lives of their families and poverty stricken communities? If your success came from hard work after coming from next to nothing then why can’t other’s? The reason the emphasis on my argument mainly touches on the black community is because they only make up approx 12% of the U.S. population but 39.5% of the prison population. Is that due to slavery or bad parenting? Whites make up approx. 80.2% of the U.S. making the white population around 160,000,000. The number I have on wellfare are whites making up 38.8%, blacks being 37.2%, 17.8% being hispanic, and 6.2% being other races. There are five times the number of white people so its makes sense they have more recipients. Allthough if the races were equal in population the number of blacks on wellfare would be more than remarkable. Does this seem unfair to blacks? If so also ask is it fair to blame an entire race for the hardships of another? I’ve been to war putting my ass on the line every day for a year and made about $25,000.00 that year which may not be poverty but is close. My father drives a truck and can’t pay for my schooling when I get out of the Army but I can guarantee I will be in school and get a degree when the time comes. I earned my G.I. bill. I don’t expect a free ride to become successful or at least to support a family and with that said claiming because I’m white I benefited from atrocities of slavery is as absurd as directly relating the tendecy of blacks to committ crimes to slavery.

  • http://blog.jdewperry.com/ James DeWolf Perry

    FOREIGNID: 15917
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    claiming because I’m white I benefited from atrocities of slavery is as absurd as directly relating the tendecy of blacks to committ crimes to slavery.
    Cole, several people on this blog have asked whether black Americans, no matter how poor or less privileged than whites, have considered how much better their lives are than those of Africans today.
    With that in mind, let me ask you: have you, too, considered how much better your standard of living is than for those in underdeveloped countries?
    I don’t want to diminish your hardships in any way. I don’t know you, and while I don’t have any more money than you do, our situations may not be the same at all.
    That said, you earn almost exactly the median income for a person living in the U.S. (in 2005, that was $25,149). This is many times what the average person in the rest of the world earns.
    Where do you think that standard of living comes from? It results from the tremendous historical success of the U.S. economy, industrializing at just the right time to come out on top. That success comes in significant part from slavery: our early industrialization, in sectors such as textiles, was largely fueled by cheap, slave-produced commodities and and the abundant surplus capital generated by slavery and the slave trade.

  • Caroline Baruth

    FOREIGNID: 15918
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    I happened by chance to view this presentation on June 29th. I have read most of the comments here and wanted to say that the program has really changed the way I view things. I am 55 years age, never saw myself as a racist and I am glad of it. Even so, my eyes have been greatly opened, and I will now continue to pursue this topic with great interest. Thank you for bringing this to light and thank you for writing the book ( of which I will read now)
    Caroline L. Baruth

  • Cole

    FOREIGNID: 15919
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    I’ve seen first hand how bad life is in third world countries. And my income for my year of deployment to Iraq was only 25,000.00 because of the entitlements soldiers recieve when deployed to a combat zone. After taxes I probably take home about 18,000.00 in a year. My starndard of living comes from industrial and technological advances and our free market which other countries struggle with because of the ruthless dictators who rule. But the topic is on making ammends and reparations for slavery in this country. The fact of the matter is, even if I did somehow which I know I didn’t because my Irish ancestors didn’t arrive in the U.S. until the early 1900′s, I still being 25 years old born in 1983 had no control over slavery and should not feel ashamed nor guilty and certainly shouldn’t have to pay for it. If blacks aren’t given the same opportunities as whites then they’ll have to work harder which will make them stronger and give then a better image in society.

  • http://blog.jdewperry.com/ James DeWolf Perry

    FOREIGNID: 15920
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    You raise a good point, Cole, about authoritarian rulers and restrictive economic policies keeping down economic growth in developing countries. However, the politics and policies of those nations often stems in large part from the fact that they lag behind the developed world economically.
    Likewise, you raise an important issue about modern economic developments. However, the reason the U.S. benefits so much from industrial and technological advances, and from a free market, is that it was able to develop economically at a crucial stage in history, so that it would be among the industrialized nations of the world. The alternative was to be an agrarian nation, or a supplier of raw commodities.
    Compare the U.S. to, let’s say, those Latin American nations with a good track record in politics and economic policy. There’s a reason why the U.S. has a vastly higher standard of living than those nations, why it has continued to enjoy those advantages for more than two centuries, and why they have found it so difficult to catch up.
    As I’ve said, Cole, you certainly shouldn’t feel guilty or ashamed about slavery … or about race generally, for that matter. But it’s not a matter of whether you or I controlled what happened. We’re not to blame, but if you and I benefit from the advantages of being U.S. citizens and being white, I think we should consider whether that obligates us to think about social justice, about the price that continues to be paid for the advantages we enjoy.

  • Cole

    FOREIGNID: 15921
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    Those nations policies are what create the lag in economic growth. Take Kuwait for instance, one of the richest countries in the world, also one of the smallest. Iraq with more oil riches than Kuwait could be on the same level economically as Kuwait in which driving a BMW would be plain trashy.
    Yes the U.S. developed at a crucial stage in history and perhaps some of that labor was endured by slaves but history is history. I went to school with black kids who we’re given the same education, rules, and treatment as I with a couple little extra scholarships as well. Now like the U.S., the school consisted of mainly whites but blacks were given all the same advantages as the white students. The point I’m making ,and I will try to get you the exact numbers, most of the black males dropped out. They could have worked hard like most of the other students and gone to college but many of them are in prison, selling drugs, and a few are dead. It seems that when we speak of the economic advantages we have over other countries, which is on the decline, we forget to mention that slavery has existed in almost every country and culture on the planet and even still occurs possibly in the Latin American countries you speak of. So why didn’t their economies flourish like ours? I’m with you on the fact that being a U.S. citizen gives me an advantage but to say my skin color gives me an advantage? Maybe 60 years ago but not today. The laws in this country are so fair that even if an individual is a better canidate for a job another might get it due to the fact they’re a minority and the company has to meet certain numbers as far as race stucture in that company. This all stuff you already know. You’re being ignorant to certain facts reguarding the black community and allowing them to hide behind the wall of hardships of slavery and prejudice. If I’m expected to take responsibilty because by whiteness gives me benifits they don’t have then when are they going to have to take responsibility for their actions which they have control over. The prison population and crime rates are not racial profiling, they are fact. The sooner you realize this the sooner you can figure out a solution to the problem in the black community. The thing confuses me is your interest in the subject. The time you’ve spent makes it hard for me to believe there’s not a hidden agenda.

  • http://blog.jdewperry.com/ James DeWolf Perry

    FOREIGNID: 15922
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    Cole, if you don’t really believe that your skin color gives you any advantages, then I suggest you take a quick look at Peggy McIntosh’s work, here. And then take a look at contemporary statistics on racial discrimination in hiring, promotion, bank loans, home mortages, and so forth. It’s a much better world out there than it used to be, but it’s still far from fair, and the fact that the laws are now race-neutral hardly ends all discrimination.
    As for Latin American economies, it’s true that to some extent, it was their bad luck not to have the right combination of factors to industrialize early, before it was too late. The point, however, is that the U.S. wouldn’t have been able to capitalize on other factors to do so, without the surplus capital and cheap commodities required, which were supplied by slavery.
    You also write, “The thing confuses me is your interest in the subject. The time you’ve spent makes it hard for me to believe there’s not a hidden agenda.”
    What hidden agenda do you worry that I might have, Cole? And why do you suspect that’s my agenda, rather than the one that I show openly to the world? You deserve honest answers to your concerns.

  • Cole

    FOREIGNID: 15923
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    It’s human nature to act in order to achieve a positive outcome, not to society but to oneself. This is a rhetorical question but should you provide an answer I’ll gladly accommodate you with a snide response. On a level playing field do you think you’d have a job?

  • http://blog.jdewperry.com/ James DeWolf Perry

    FOREIGNID: 15924
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    It may be a rhetorical question, Cole, but I’m glad to answer as best I can.
    On a level playing field, I can only assume that I’d probably have a job. Perhaps nothing like the job I do have, in a field I’m privileged to work in, but I’m able-bodied and most (though not all) Americans are able to find work.
    I think perhaps the key is to ask what privileges I do, and don’t, enjoy. My family had very little money when I was growing up, and I did without many things which my friends and their families took for granted.
    On the other hand, my parents were able to provide for me and my siblings. Moreover, both of my parents had gone to college. I’m sure that was one of the many intangible factors which helped orient me on a path that took me from public school to an Ivy League education, complete with the necessary scholarships and other financial aid. This has had an immeasurable impact on my life, and without those privileges, my life would probably be very different.
    Now, I believe I was promised a snide response. :-)

  • Cole

    FOREIGNID: 15925
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    I find it amazing you accepted a scholarship only whites could apply for. We can beat a dead horse all day but African Americans are entitled to all the same scholarships as I. I’ve heard of the United Negro College Fund, but I’ve never heard of one for white people. If there were an all white college there would be protests and shootings and bombings and riots. There are black colleges correct? I hope this isn’t too snide because I’d hate for this to end our wholesome debate. I can’t remember the last time I’ve thought this hard or been bent so out of shape.
    edited by moderator for language

  • http://blog.jdewperry.com/ James DeWolf Perry

    FOREIGNID: 15926
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    I’m sorry, Cole, but why are you ignoring the types of privilege I mentioned in my comment, and talking about scholarships?
    It’s true that most college scholarships are now available without regard to race.
    It’s also true, though, that not everyone has an equal chance to reach the point where they’re competitive for those scholarships.White or black, if you grow up with parents who didn’t go to college (or who didn’t finish high school), you’re likely to be at a disadvantage. If you grow up in a neighborhood without strong public schools, or where there are distractions to being a diligent student, you’re at a disadvantage. And if you grow up in a family struggling to put food on the table, you’re at a disadvantage.
    These disadvantages can affect white and black students, but statistically, and for historical reasons, they’re disproportionately likely to impact black students. That’s the issue.
    You also write, “If there were an all white college there would be protests and shootings and bombings and riots. There are black colleges correct?”
    No, Cole, there are not black colleges. There are historically black colleges, which admit students of all races but have a long, proud tradition of educating young black students in an age where few, if any, black students were allowed to attend other colleges.
    There are, of course, many historically white colleges in this country. But we simply call them “colleges.”

  • Cole

    FOREIGNID: 15927
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    Such as the college you attend? You have me there. Colleges are open to all races. There were historically all black and all white colleges but here we go again to the history lesson. What percent of white families from 1708 to 1865 were slave owners? I do understand your argument Sir. I do benefit from my skin color but at no fault of my own. Just because your family traded slaves doesn’t mean mine did so if I benefit from your family’s inhumane treatment of African Americans then that makes me lucky to be white and I should consider it an act of predjucice for others to expect me to take responsibility for the actions of others because of my skin color. Would you agree with that?

  • James Shortway

    FOREIGNID: 15928
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    Mr. Dewolf Perry,
    First off please allow me to start this message stating that I am not someone who forces my opinions on anyone. I believe that everyone is entitled to their opinion and my objective here is not to ruin something that you have worked very hard on and dedicated so much time to! So before I get deep into this kudos to you! I am always impressed when someone is willing to give so much of themselves to a cause especially juggling a PhD program! Also this will be my last response on here because I certainly don’t want some kind of two on one discussion between the three of us. You are a greatly educated man with very impressive ideas and a great thought process. We could go around in circles for days, months, years, and the end result would be that neither of us is right or wrong because this is all a matter of life experience and perspective.
    Ok, now that we got that out of the way. I have a hypothetical situation that would be interesting to consider. If I wanted to run for political office someday but I was a member of what I understood to be the largest slave trading family in American history how could I get on the democratic ticket? Funny you should mention that! I will tell you how I would do it, and it would make Carl Rove look like John Kerry. I would first start out with college kids, god knows those ignorant people want to believe that they are far smarter than their parents and they are doing and saying things that have never before thought of due in large part to their toys r us professors who didn’t grow up enough to get jobs in the fields which they are now teaching! Once I had those ignorant souls in the bag, I would move directly to the teachers, and hollywood, and finish off with the rest of the Kooks and scientologists of the world. My final piece though is a thing of beauty. Blacks everywhere would find out about my involvement and the sins of my ancestors and once this was leaked to the public my shot would be gone and I would be wasting another degree. I would do the ingenious maneuver that Eminem pulled at the end of eight mile fcourse! I would disclose this ahead of time, so it doesn’t look like part of my agenda then I would denounce it and black people would love me for these actions now rather than hate me! I would be like the pied piper of politicians! When you continue to carry this awesome plan out remember I am the one who cracked it when you were hatching this so if you ever need a spin doctor I will gladly be your guy, I also do mob hits, church socials, bootlegging and orgies! Ha ok, I am only partially joking here but you sly fox if this is your plan you are a smart guy!!!!
    Insert meat and potatoes here…
    I find it amazing that by your facts and figures you are able to attribute only six percent of welfare recipients as hispanics, arab, asian, and other. I think perhaps your figures may be a bit skewed here. In the event that they are not congratulations to those races for being the hardest working people in the universe (I hope the sarcasm doesn’t get wasted here). However let’s pretend that your numbers are accurate and there are far more whites on welfare. This negates everything you said about blacks not getting a fair shake in America and they seem to be prospering! so I don’t have to write anything else here.
    I hope that the example that I provided for you doesn’t throw you off I have a million other examples but didn’t feel the need to unleash a flurry of them, I could tell you of my second team leader in the army Sgt James, who would masterbate on his cellphone behind me while talking to his girlfriend while we were out on training missions, while his wife sat at home. Or my third team leader in the army Andrew who was arrested for stealing a pizza (on base) but was not subjected to punishment under the uniform code of military justice. See in the Army you are subject to equal opportunity classes once a month (yes even in Iraq). So at one of these many many many wastes of time I brought up this tasty little treat. Walk into any military dinning facility and you can see this in action. I brought up the fact that blacks in the military will segregate themselves from everyone else and all sit at the same tables. I thought this not only to be odd but also pretty racist that they would want to sit with people that they only shared a skin color with rather than the people they were dodging bullets with. Our supply guy, we will call him Neal once told another guy that I work with why would you want to go outside the wire( meaning leave the base and risk getting hurt) leave that to the white people. This took the wind out of my sails, I was unaware that only white people should risk dying for America. Do you know that no black man in the room had a problem with either of these situations? They all agreed with segregating themselves and that it was not out of line to make racially motivated comments like let the white people die. I also failed to mention that the guy that Neal was talking to, Bones, went AWOL while home on leave and was brought back to the military only when he was picked up with a trunk full of guns and prepped molotov cocktails. This was his second AWOL offense. If you would like hundreds of other examples I can do this all day. I was being kind by only offering one story to provide examples of my point. This is not a handful of people this is an epidemic.
    You also claim that most legal immigrants are not starting from scratch, I don’t find this to be true in my experience. All of the legal immigrants I work with started off just like I did. They learned the trade and are now doing it. Perhaps where you are from everyone but blacks gets plugged into a computer and gets a trade downloaded to their brain. How matrix.
    You write “Yes, I think that’s a real stretch. I think you overestimate how many adult blacks listen to that particular music, but the real issue is that it’s an art form which primarily reflects, rather than creates, the cultural attitudes it portrays.” I say, that adults are not swayed by music, the damage is done in their childhood and teen years when they are learning how to behave from the examples set forth.
    You amusingly write “Well, partly because their slaving voyages were exclusively to ports on the African coast, where few Germans or Greeks were for sale.” fully knowing the point that I was making was that blacks were enslaved because they were an easy target. I do not advocate taking advantage of anyone but P.T. Barnum is often quoted as saying “There’s a sucker born every minute and I want to shake hands with each of them.” If you research this you will find that he really didn’t but you get the point. They were enslaved because they were an easy target. If it was me , I would have used the native americans that way I wouldn’t have to pay outrageous shipping costs. Please understand that I am saying this to make a point and that I in no way advocate the enslavement of any people.
    The morals and ideals of the times dictated that what was being done was legal. To go back and grandfather slavery into some legal debate now opens the door to all things that were once legal and are now illegal. Should we go back and charge everyone with crimes of that nature? I am sure that with a law degree you would say that this is a can of worms best left unopened.
    If our economy depended so much on slavery why did we not fall into the depression in 1866? Let’s keep in mind that in 1860 the average income was 1453 dollars a year, and the average cost of a slave was around 460 dollars. There is no way possible that Joe public could afford a slave, let alone clothing them, feeding them, and all things inherent in slave ownership. If my numbers are a little off here forgive me, all of these numbers are things that I have read in the past, I am sure that they are close enough to make the point. I really do dig your point about the plight now affecting the black community and how it is residual from slavery. Here is my gripe with the whole thing. There was slavery in America long before it was a separate nation. We effectively learned slavery from the British, and I am howling mad that those tea drinking derelicts passed this onto white Americans. I think the Brits should then be responsible for the reparations that you desire to take from me. The beautiful part here is that once left to our own devices we thought freely and ended slavery in 1865 with only 90 years of being America we got over it. Is it so far a stretch to be incapable of understanding why black people can’t get over the same in 90 years? I am glad to see you propose education rather than a nominal fee. I would find this acceptable if not for two things: first, I would be paying for this education reparation and still have to hear complaints about racism. And 2. Now you would have schools that only black people can attend to catch them up to speed? So your answer to fixing the problem is yet again to segregate? I am confused by this. At any rate this could all be alleviated if black Americans stopped looking at themselves as black Americans, and moved out of the towns in which they chose to live in and set priorities to send their children to schools that will provide better educations. Again my point of the indians who will live 30 to a house and then send their children to medical school. This is the love a parent should have for their child. I am in no way opposed to further correspondence but I don’t want to put a blemish on something you have worked so hard on, so if you desire my email address is attached and I would love to hear more of what you think.

  • http://blog.jdewperry.com/ James DeWolf Perry

    FOREIGNID: 15929
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    Cole writes:
    if I benefit from your family’s inhumane treatment of African Americans then that makes me lucky to be white and I should consider it an act of predjucice for others to expect me to take responsibility for the actions of others because of my skin color. Would you agree with that?
    No, Cole, I don’t agree with that. I don’t see how you can agree that you’re “lucky to be white” because you enjoy advantages passed down from historic injustices, and yet think that it’s prejudice for anyone to suggest that this might not be fair.
    With all due respect, you either don’t understand my argument, or you’re choosing to ignore it. You keep dismissing my argument, for instance, by noting that your ancestors didn’t trade slaves, or by suggesting that relatively few Americans owned slaves. This is plainly irrelevant to what I’ve said, which is that our shared history passed advantages from slavery to all Americans, with the lion’s share of those benefits passing to whites, and simultaneously passed significant disadvantages on to black families.
    If you simply don’t believe that this constitutes an injustice which ought to be addressed, then that’s your privilege.

  • http://blog.jdewperry.com/ James DeWolf Perry

    FOREIGNID: 15930
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    James Shortway, you’ve posted a comment of formidible length and, from what I can see from skimming it, a variety of serious arguments.
    I’ll be sure to respond in detail tomorrow. :-)

  • Moderator

    FOREIGNID: 15931
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    James, Cole, and James, this is the moderator. Thank you very much for engaging in this debate. We would appreciate it if you continued your discussions via private email. We will be in touch with you through email shortly.
    Thank you,
    Moderator

  • Cole

    FOREIGNID: 15932
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    Sorry if we made too many waves. I was only trying to enlighten readers to this propaganda film.

  • James Shortway

    FOREIGNID: 15933
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    Moderator, not a problem. Thank you all for the opportunity to speak my mind. I don’t wish to damage your cause so please feel free to remove my comments. It was great to debate with James Dewolf Perry. He is impressively intelligent and conducts himself with great character. Best of luck and best wishes to all.

  • http://blog.jdewperry.com/ James DeWolf Perry

    FOREIGNID: 15934
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    Thanks, James Shortway. I’ve really enjoyed your willingness to discuss these issues honestly and openly. I did write up a lengthy response to your last set of thoughtful and detailed comments, but will respect POV’s request that we not continue that discussion here. If you’d like to have my response, please just send me your e-mail address.
    If anyone would like to ask questions or discuss these issues beyond what can be done here, you can also talk with us on the film’s web site, find our e-mail addresses, or even visit my blog.

  • Silly David Ben-Ariel

    FOREIGNID: 15935
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    David Ben Ariel (6/25/08,12:32a comment) research shows that your exact name appears among a slave registry from the Bahamas, Hatian Region of the Carribean. You are more than likely a “white” who has deep roots in the America’s Slavery. Poor you David Ben [sic] you are at the very most, a displaced,peasant.

  • mary carrington

    FOREIGNID: 15936
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    Hi Tom,
    I want to visit Brstol to personally see the town where the events of the film occured. What should I look for and how can I find ways that the town has acknowledged these events.
    Mary Carrington

  • Kathryn Donald

    FOREIGNID: 15937
    FOREIGNPARENTID:
    I have DeWolfe’s in my family tree somewhere and only know it was NE Dewolfes. Do you have a copy of the “begats” to share?
    Saw the film here in Saettle. Elly was there. I think and feel deeply about it, knowing I need to , and will share this information with my family and begin the necessary dialogue. Want the begats for a start if you would be so kind to share that part. Hope to meet you someday, Kathryn