Talking Back: ‘Traces of the Trade’

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Traces of the Trade: A Story from the Deep North chronicles a unique and disturbing journey into the history and legacy of the U.S. slave trade. The documentary tracks what happens as filmmaker Katrina Browne comes to grips with the discovery that her New England ancestors were the largest slave-trading family in U.S. history. Her film is a probing essay into divergent versions of a nation’s history.

Browne invites 200 DeWolf descendants to join her in facing their shared past and its relationship to their own lives. Nine end up traveling with her to retrace the Triangle Trade, from Bristol, Rhode Island, to slave forts in Ghana to sugar plantations in Cuba and back. Theirs is an emotional trek, with each step raising important questions about culpability and compassion, hurt and healing.

The family confronts not only their own assumptions, but also America’s depiction of slavery as a predominantly Southern institution. As the film reveals the North’s vast complicity in slavery, it forces viewers to examine the mythology of Northern innocence and the repercussions for race relations.

Katrina Browne says that it can seem as if white people like her have only two choices: “Either listen to African American calls to deal with the history, which can make us feel guilty and bad about ourselves, or shut it all out so we don’t have to feel bad.” What is a third way? In what ways does our knowledge of history influence our current beliefs and actions?

Juanita Brown tells the group, “It’s important for me that white people take responsibility and that ultimately it’s about human liberation — liberation of my people and also about your liberation.” Do you agree with Juanita? What does “taking responsibility” mean for you?

Katrina talks in Ghana about being glad that her cousin Dain Perry was on the “hot seat,” not her. What are the everyday ways in which you find racial dynamics challenging? In which situations do you get stuck or tongue-tied?

Candid and compelling, Traces of the Trade challenges viewers to ask themselves the same contentious questions that Browne and her family ask: Why is it so difficult for Americans to have a conversation about the legacy of slavery and racism? As a nation, how do we deal with what we inherited from our country’s history?

Share your thoughts and opinions in comments.

Catherine Jhee
Catherine Jhee
Catherine Jhee was formerly a producer with POV Interactive.
  • TashaJuanna R Muhammad

    FOREIGNID: 15954
    Here are a few books that white people and Black people need to read if they are truly serious about beginning to understand the purpose for the slave trade, the consequences of the slave trade on Black people, and the reason why Black people can’t understand white aversion to discussing reparations let alone actually doling some out to the descendants of slaves:
    1. Stolen Legacy by George G.M. James
    2. The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter G. Woodson
    3. 500 Years of European Behavior: It’s Effect on Afrika and Afrikan People by Nana Ekow Butweiku I
    4. The ISIS Papers: The Keys To The Colors by Dr. Frances Cress Welsing
    5. 100 Years of Lynchings by Ralph Ginzburg
    6. The Destruction of Black Civilization: Great Issues of Race From 4500 B.C. to 2000 A.D.
    7. A’rn’t I a Woman?: Female Slaves In The Plantation South by Deborah Gray White
    8. Before The Mayflower: A History of Black America by Lerone Bennett, Jr.
    Please read these and then we can talk.

  • Rachel Cohen

    FOREIGNID: 15955
    Why did my tax dollars go to pay for this exercise in group therapy for the filmmaker and her relatives? Couldn’t they have figured this out without making a rather mediocre film? Poor sound, camera-work and editing detracted from the message–did I need to see the man pick up the piece of chicken he dropped on the ground? Was there a hidden message in that?
    This self-indulgent film is another example of why PBS is irrelevant.

  • Mary Mura

    FOREIGNID: 15956
    I feel no anxiety regarding slavery. My family were German farmers and Croatian farmers, coming to the U.S. after 1880. Those who benefited from slave trade need to be the ones to deal with their indebtedness to the people they wronged, not me. I feel a need to repay Native Americans, as I am living in and on the land that once was theirs. I contribute to schools that educate Native Americans.

  • Mireille Liong

    FOREIGNID: 15957
    I was at the premiere yesterday and I watched it again tonight. I think it’s a very moving documentary that touches everybody. I am not a citizen and I hope that Katrina and her family set an example of how to initiate a debate. Hopefully it ripples through the rest of the Diaspora.

  • Marcy Webb

    FOREIGNID: 15958
    I found the program compelling and candid. Honestly, I wasn’t going to watch it, but I am glad that I did. While the issue of race, and, as Juanita stated in the film, the cowardly behavior of Whites with respect to the issue, I believe that Blacks and Whites need to heal, however that has to happen. I have always said that Whites need to get together and hash out the issues amongst themselves, in the way that Katrina Browne and her family did, before a larger conversation can happen. Whites also need to educate themselves, and stop looking to Blacks to do it for them.

  • Robin Hamaker

    FOREIGNID: 15959
    I commend the courage to begin in your life the walk to come to acceptance of the reality of the horrors that have occurred in our past. I hope, as do you, that the fear, anger and guilt can be walked thru and whatever the solutions may begin to be addressed. Such a deeply complicated painful situation yet holds the hope for

  • Renee Martin-Shahid

    FOREIGNID: 15960
    This documentary was truly liberating and I commend this family for digging deep into their past to uncover the injustices of the slave trade. I don’t think many people who may share in similar lineages of slave traders would confront head on the role of their ancestors. Even though Ms. Browne does not bear the responsibility of her ancestors, at least she was willing to examine from Rhode Island to Ghana to Havanna the trail created by the De Wolf family. Watching this tells me that there is hope for reconciliation, but it requires a gutting of pride that bears the soul and true emotions of whites and blacks.

  • Carolyn Bordeaux

    FOREIGNID: 15961
    =I applaud Katrina for making the film – I believe it is the White person’s legacy and therefore responsbility to acknowledge and do something to repair the damage for the victims of slavery – Also, as a Native American (Lakota), we feel like an invisible people in our own homeland. If people knew the true history of the near genocide of my people, they would be appalled. People need to know their past or they will be condemned to repeat it again.
    You know, there are Indian people, Black people, our brothers & sisters to the South (Mexican Indians) that continue to be oppressed to this day. And all brown people in this country suffer racial predjudice on so many levels -

  • Wayne Bryant

    FOREIGNID: 15962
    I think that the dinner table scene is typical of privilege. I think that Dain was pre-destined to go to Harvard, eventhough he thinks he got there on his own merit. If he had grown up in a disadvantaged household he most likely would not have gone to Harvard. Is it a race factor or socio-economic fact? I think a little of both. I don’t think they should feel “White Guilt” but if they truly want to make a difference and make ammends, take their connections and help a disadvantaged youth get into Harvard. All any Black Person wants is a level playing field.

  • Joel Bryant

    FOREIGNID: 15963
    Your effort is heartfelt, real and admirable. As an african american i salute you.

  • simone

    FOREIGNID: 15964
    In order to move forward, everyone has to stop the denial and the blame and work on acknowledgment and problem solving. There are no doubts or questions about what happened from slavery to now. The question that remains is what are we going to do about it so that the elephant in the room is no more.
    I think that it was incredible that this family chose to take this journey and shared it with America because they have taken the step that we all need to take. People of European descent guilty or guilty by association have to acknowledge that pain is a legacy (just like money) and it lives on. African Americans need to take similar journeys not to resurrect the ghosts to to release the ghosts.

  • Ed Santoro

    FOREIGNID: 15965
    PBS is not nearly as irrelevant to the much needed change in this country as are the main stream networks.
    I was happy to see that this documentary, while not the best, was still aware of its own shortcomings and attempted to right them when they appeared. I was even happier that it commented on the idea that we still do live in an age when corporations manipulate the system to take advantage of the labor of people with the least political power.
    This was a positive addition to the growing discussions of race, power, wealth, and class that are finally finding their way to the surface of national discussion.

  • DeNita Wright

    FOREIGNID: 15966
    Finally a refreshing and hopeful reconciliation piece. I am going to order it for my District one community group. I hope other community organizations will do the same. Because if this catches on what a powerful nation it will create. And according to the preamble to our constitution, isn’t that what we’ve been struggling and fighting to achieve, “A PERFECT UNION?

  • Mary Eldridge

    FOREIGNID: 15967
    Thank you, Katrina Browne, for your very thoughtful exploration. I was especially anxious when it got to the Episcopalian part…I am fairly new to the denomination. How relieved I am by the passing of the resolution; but the response to your sermon, and the ‘surprise’ of something different happening in the service in reaction to it, brought me to tears. Truth and reconciliation is what my faith is about. That, and love. They are one and the same. Thank you for examining that and expressing that in this program.

  • Kathleen Watkins

    FOREIGNID: 15968
    My ancestors were both slave owners and Quaker abolitionists. I admire the strength of the film maker and her family in exploring their family’s deep roots in the slave trade. Although I do not believe that emotions of guilt are the answer for every white American or to the resolution of racism, I strongly believe that we must acknowledge that slavery was/is the primary contributer to the inequities that exist today between American blacks and whites. We have a huge responsibility to address that inequality, as it continues to pervade our society, through the actions and activities of our daily lives.

  • Jane Peck

    FOREIGNID: 15969
    While thinking about this film, I hope people will begin to also learn about the small country of Haiti. In this country the slaves freed themselves from their French masters in 1802. They have been punished for this by the western world for the past 200 years. This is a case of viewing an entire country as slaves and never being able to mature to the point of respecting them. (How else would one explain US kidnapping their elected president Aristide.) The Haitians are still paying off the reparations required by the French after losing the island, only now the money goes to the World Bank.

  • Valerie singleton

    FOREIGNID: 15970
    I watch the documentary tonight, and was very moved. I am a black women who lives down south. I was surprised that this strong family took the time and emotion to just take a look back at history. More of us, no matter white, black, or in between need to; because if we do take the time we’ll see why everyone in pot all has burns that aren’t healing.

  • Janice Scott

    FOREIGNID: 15971
    I was very impressed with the film. It touched upon some real issues that exists between the races today. Healing cannot begin until people are willing to talk openly and honestly. This film is a good beginning!

  • Deb Valentine

    FOREIGNID: 15972
    Thank you. I don’t have the right words, but I am on the same journey as a white person and thankfully alongside people of color in my community who are willing to allow me to be a part of their journeys too. Thank you PBS for and all the participants. It is a messy journey, but I do believe there has to be hope and healing in it. I don’t think this was a selfish therapeutic session at all – who would ever want to do therapy in public anyway? I think it is a story of messed up people making mistakes, and stumbling along with courage towards Life and with a willngness to admit they don’t do it right, but doing nothing is for sure not right.

  • Jo Davis

    FOREIGNID: 15973
    I watched this film on PBS after it was introduced on the Bill Moyers Journal. So moving, particularly because the feelings of the family and the Africans/descendants were foremost. From my college days, I have been aware of the massive injustice and damaging legacy of our country’s founding sin. Would you believe it was the musical ’1776′ that introduced me to this issue? Listen to the song ‘Molasses to Rum to Slaves.’ I just didn’t know what to do with black anger, and what one person could do to reach for healing.
    I think the themes of recognizing that both black and white Americans bear deep scars from slavery, that the first step is white Americans recognizing the internal damage and striving to understand Black Americans’ anger, and for white Americans to acknowledge the need for forgiveness with no expectation that it will come easily or soon are the most transforming messages that meant the most to me.
    What it means I can do next, I don’t yet know. But I do know that in this remarkable election year, there is great potential to try and find a way. That way won’t be clear or easy, only possible.
    Thank you for your dedication, for your desire to frame the issues honestly, and for sharing your experiences with grace, transparency and hopefully.

  • Delphine Simpson

    FOREIGNID: 15974
    I am an African American. I was very moved by this film. I think it is important that evetyone see this film. It’s not easy to stand in our shoes, to feel uncomfortable to know that this is what human beings did to one another. I have traveled to my homeland and stood in the door of no return and cried to know that this was my great-great-grandfather/mother who passed through those doors. Please show this film again so that more people can see and hear what they experienced on that trip to Ghana . We are all God’s children and I hope that in time we can sit together and talk about what happened.

  • John Dunklin

    FOREIGNID: 15975
    We in the South have been dealing with this question since April 9,1865. It was always the terrible south and the saviour north and it is finally time that the yankees have found out about how terrible they were. I have no mercy for Mrs Browne in my heart as the villification was piled high and deep on the south and only NOW has there been an awakening by the North. Yea it feels terrible to have been part of the problem then but she has about 150 years of catching up to the south’s feelings. Most everyone in the South has come to terms with this issue and the few that kept the hatred alive are now almost dead. In just one or two more generations the South will lead the United States out of this most miserable dicotamy of human nature and save the north from their embarresment and, just as they always have, they never ever have to deal with the situation that was for the most part their fault in causing the most momentous moment in American history the surrender of the Northern Army of Virginia on April 9, 1865 at Appomattox Courthouse, Appomatox Virginia.

  • veronica

    FOREIGNID: 15976
    While I compliment the film maker for her effort to explore the information she discovered about her family lineage let alone make it public, rather than simply ignore it, I saw time and time again how clueless this family is regarding their white privilege and really got turned off at their chronic self indulgent white guilt throughout. The comments by Juanita Brown were right on, and was saddened to see a group of whites looking to a black person for insights and answers. Look to themselves! Do they have any close african american friends? Do they know african american history? Have they lived in a predominately african american or multi race neighborhood? Not to harsh too much on one family, but these are questions we need to ask one another.

  • Mary Mura

    FOREIGNID: 15977
    Final comment – do not hang your guilt on all of the U.S. and do not expect all in the U.S. to pay the price for this slavery. You know that the railroads here were built on the backs of the low-paid Chinese, the land was taken from the Native Americans – surely these people deserve reparations as well.

  • Reggie

    FOREIGNID: 15978
    Very good job congratulations! I am a 62 year old Black man who was sent to jail for not fighting in the Veit Nam war. Most of the men in my family did go in the service. But I could not understand how America could even ask me to fight it’s wars for her. When will America fight for me? when will America fight for Black people our votes were not counted in the 2000 elections or the 2004 for that matter. This show was good some people are beginning to move in the rigth direction.

  • Sanjiv Shah

    FOREIGNID: 15979
    As a naturalized citizen fof the USA from India and therefore a somewhat neutral bystander on the issue of racism in America, I found this film very moving and if we follow through on the promise it holds for forgiveness and trust for people on both sides, it offers great hope for a catharrtic breakthrough. This could also be a model for other long overdue bridging of chasms that crisscross the human landscape – Native Americans and White Americans, Arabs and Jews, Shias and Sunnis, North and South, Rich and Poor…
    On a different note (no pun intended), can someone tell me about the song that accompanies the credits at the end of the film?

  • Monika Johnston

    FOREIGNID: 15980
    Provocative documentary. Kudos to Katrina Browne and the rest of her family who were willing to face their family history and themselves with courage and honesty. Hopefully, the film will provoke more discussion about the legacy of slavery and racism in our country that will move us toward genuine healing. With regard to reparations, it would be absurd to calculate in multiple ways. For example, as a descendant of anonymous slaves, I would most want to have access to the same type of family information that Ms. Brown had about her ancestors. Sadly, that documentation and that family history are lost to me. Is that something that can be repaired or reconciled with a lawsuit or a check?

  • Gil Figueroa

    FOREIGNID: 15981
    I did not see the entire show tonight, but I saw enough to see that Katrina’s heart is open and she (and others) are open to taking positive steps. Recently I have read “Lies My Teacher Told Me” and “Lies Across America” by James Loewen. Both books talk about the horrible crimes Europeans inflicted upon the Native Americans and later the Africans brought to America as slaves.
    I know of no way to change the past, but I believe there are things that can be done today. Money can only make a small difference, but money, time, education and a movement of many people can make a huge difference.
    Money can be used to start on two fronts.
    1. Revamp what is taught as American history to tell our history from at least 3 perspectives: race (Indian, black and white), nationality (Native American, African and European) and gender (female and male). This can instill awareness and compassion that can help a movement over time.
    2. Invest in the public school system. I believe it is better to significantly improve the facilities and faculty at a few schools (100) than it is to make barely noticeable improvements in many schools (10,000). Over time, compunding takes affect.
    Our children and their children will create the future, so we need to take great care to give them the capacity to feel and take action based on those feelings. Ignoring our past failings continues that failure, but teaching our failings and successes can instill in our youth the capacity to see slavery from multiple perspective so they can make conscious choices of what to do about it when we are gone.

  • JW Citizen (Jack White)

    FOREIGNID: 15982
    Why are you even slightly considering reparations for something that happened 200-300 years ago?? Do you see me gathering my Irish friends and going before British Parliament and screaming for reparations for the Potato Famine?? No, you don’t. Get away from the THEN and into the NOW. Blacks can go to school and get jobs like anyone else. Take a look at the American economy and show me some balance. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer thanks to our government of self-serving thieves. Consider learning Farsi or Mandarin Chinese. THAT is what’s coming. That is the FUTURE of this hapless country. Do NOT come to my door asking for reparations for things that happened 8-10 generations ago. You have some pitiful, liberal pond-scum conscience? Take your “family blood money” and move back to England. Live next to an Arab. The English don’t even own their country any more. And YOU don’t care what happens to America? Ever thing is O.K. for EVERYONE? DEAL with the NOW of things. Clearly you have nothing else to do! Come to my door and ask for reparation money and I will blow you off my porch-right back to the upper-class ghetto that you came from. You guys need a new and realistic hobby. You are not even slightly in touch with the way things are going now and how they will be after we’re already dead. You will clearly leave a rotten, pitiful legacy of sucking up to every threat that means business-and that business is to eliminate you from the earth. Wake up!!!
    this comment has been edited by the moderator for language

  • Jonathan Hammond

    FOREIGNID: 15983
    im mixed race black/white and im really glad that i watched the show. Being black and white in america im fortunate enough to actually have the ability to see the issue from both points of veiw and i know how hard it is for white people to acknowledge that yes they have privlage in this country whether that it came from a legacy of ancestor involvement in slavery or just the fact that they have white skin but then the question arises what to do next after realzing that…i feel that the film really addressed all the key issuses with it, that really havent been addressed much or at all in general media. so i just have to say about time! and thank you :)

  • Dennis Hendricks

    FOREIGNID: 15984
    I watched the movie POV and saw that you could come to this site and “ask the filmaker”. But all I have found are comments on it, so I will give you mine.
    This filmaker, Katrina Browne, acknowledges that her family was one of the biggest slave trading families that benefitted from the slave trade. She also acknowledges that her family and everone else there, except for the guy that graduated from Oregon University, were graduates from Ivy League schools and were considered elites. Then she goes to tell us that we as white americans have two options. 1. we could feel guilty or 2. we could igore the problems of african-americans. My question is, if she knows her family profitted from the slave trade, why is she lumping me and every other american in with her? How does an elite who actually benefitted from something pass the blame and the reparations off to an average American who never owned or traded slaves, or whos’ ancestors did either. It seems to me that it is very easy to share the blame and tax everyone to pay reparations for what your family benefitted from. And then all you have to do is use your wealth to pass legislation to lower the taxes on higher incomes “to stimulate the economy of course”. After that you raise taxes on every one else to pay for your guilt. Thank you but no thanks.

  • Barney A. Bishop

    FOREIGNID: 15985
    What a powerful program. I see things like this and wish I could’ve been part of the team to spread the word that it was airing. I found out about it via text.
    I didn’t see the entire program but what I did see was quite interesting. have a lot of courage.
    I would love to sit and chat with you one day.

  • Karen Lavore

    FOREIGNID: 15986
    Katrina & Family
    Thank you so much for your production. It has been our goal to get our White Brothers & Sisters to share those unspoken legacies they have hidden. In order for us to belong and feel a viable part of society, we need family records to establish and bridge this gap. I am the Co-Foundor & Vice President of The Afro-American Historical Association of Fauquier County Virginia . See our web site at

  • Dee Hart

    FOREIGNID: 15987
    I am proud to see one family take the time to acknowledge what their ancestors helped to create. To read comments from people stating it was not their ancestors that created this problem in the is just a little unjust. It is like asking a Jewish person living in Germany now not to acknowledge what happend during WWII. The slave trade occured, this country was built on the backs of my ancestors. This was the perfect time for this film to air. Our country prides itself on the past, but likes to forget the unpleasant portions that have lead to so much hatred.
    Ms. Brown was able to find her ancestors, while I am still trying to locate the property records to find mine. I am proud that my Great Grandmother was able to see the end slavery. I am not happy knowing that the people that owned her and many others act like it never happend. So to Ms. Brown and her family thank you for accepting what your family did in the past, and opening the dialogue for healing in the present and future.

  • MrsP

    FOREIGNID: 15988
    I appreciate the effort that went into making this film, however, overall it did seem like an overindulgent family therapy session. Can that one guy REALLY BELIEVE that he got into Harvard on his intelligence alone? LOL… Every one of you went to Ivy League schools because of the wealth your ancestors created for you. Talk about parallel universes? Why don’t you read Jonathan Kozol’s “Savage Inequalities” to truly understand the repurcussions of what families like yours did to this nation. Lastly, your generic idea of “white people” developing a dialogue with African Americans is almost laughable. My descendents were Irish, basically indentured servants during most of the British Empire, forced into immigration ONLY because of starvation. I have no guilt, that is on your shoulders.

  • Mary Mura

    FOREIGNID: 15989
    I wonder how many slave descendants would like to return to their homeland? Maybe their ancestors had a terrible time here – but, maybe their removal from Africa had a bit of a blessing in it for their descendants. I wonder how many Africans would turn down a chance to come to the U.S. if it was offered to them today.

  • Miriam Poser

    FOREIGNID: 15990
    Thank you for this moving, informative program. I came to this country as a five-year-old refugee and until tonight, I never had a reply for the folks who say, “I wasn’t here so I’m not responsible for the circumstances of African-Americans today.” Ms. Brown provided the answer and I will now learn more about those northern factories, one of which gave work to my father when we arrived.

  • RobMase

    FOREIGNID: 15991
    Ms. Browne and her family are truly courageous souls. Blacks are not going to spark the discussion of guilt, complicency, and apathy among white Amwerica. That must happen from within their own communities. And what better way for this process to start than with a Browne family and their examination of their own dark family history?
    I support Katrina and her family in their efforts to ultimatel make this a better world to live in. The Brownes are to be exalted and encouraged. I hope Katrina Browne and her family makes it seem alright for others to turn the dark mirror of history on themselves. Sometimes when the brave step forward, it makes it easier for the not-as-brave.

  • Miriam Poser

    FOREIGNID: 15992
    Thank you for this moving, informative program. I came to this country as a five-year-old refugee and until tonight, I never had a reply for the folks who say, “I wasn’t here so I’m not responsible for the circumstances of African-Americans today.” Ms. Brown provided the answer and I will now learn more about those northern factories, one of which gave work to my father when we arrived.

  • Colleen Winney

    FOREIGNID: 15993
    This is not self-indugence. The film shows a family falling on the sword publicly. No slick production here, just a sincere attempt to come to terms with a family’s past connection to slavery and how to move forward, today, dropped chicken and all. I commend the attempt. To say that this is group therapy is cynical in the extreme. How about focussing on the topic rather than the packing and shipping?

  • idonwanna noyou

    FOREIGNID: 15994
    Rachel cohen speaks to natural alliances in America. To those whites who came later: outside of major citiesn those African Americans who spoke English, up until the 1950′s were considered ‘uppity’ and candidates for a rope. How does one fairly compete with them odds. As to today, walk the tradin floors and count the black faces. Explain to me that ‘SHE’S GOT TO HAVE IT’ is a black film and the themes are not universal among women. How is it that in the 8 yrs my kids spent in a West Side private school, I couldn’t get a conversation about anything except basketball and jazz…and every white male assured me “you the man”?

  • Isabella

    FOREIGNID: 15995
    Congratulations to the entire production team for a remarkable piece. It is a good conversation-starter for an eminently necessary conversation, especially in a time when we are apparently ready to “transcend race”. Wouldn’t that be nice.
    My thoughts to my fellow white colleagues who are reading these notes and thinking about things…
    First: having “the conversation” does not always mean that things have to be resolved the first time around; sometimes it’s a relief to begin the conversation with that notion. It’s a process, after all.
    Secondly: it’s very easy to come away from this kind of work wanting to be the hero, the enlightened one, the PhD, the expert. It’s one thing to start to see things clearly, and another thing to take responsibility. A colleague of mine recently quoted a Wolof saying: “he who wakes up first, must wake up the others”. We must put aside our own egos, our own convictions of intellectual superiority… that, after all, is what got us into this mess in the first place.

  • Dewton Williams

    FOREIGNID: 15996
    After watching the film. I am constantly brought back to the dinner table discussion. One member went around to each member and identified their individula success at higher education. Then there was mention that the finacial rewards directly from the slave trade had disspitated years ago. So, what was their lasting inheritance? Without doubt it was their education. Its a benefit they received freely because of slavery; that black people receive also with so much struggle and failure because of the remnants of slavery.
    If reparation is to have far reaching success and if it is to translate iinto “masive investment to deal with the unlevel playing field,” higher and advanced education for blacks in this country must be in the form of entitlement. Open your hands and your hearts and give us something that you have deprived us of, which even today so many of us are turned back because of the finacial burden imposed on us. There can be no level playing field if the white man and the black man are going through the same channels to get educated. Not when the white man has had such a humungous advantage.
    We can do this, if we are not disengenious about our efforts to make good on a disgraceful wrong.

  • Dave Scouler

    FOREIGNID: 15997
    I think the film presented a significant experience for a family that was awaken by the reality of the choices and actions of their direct relatives. I think it took courage for them to step into this as they were directly down the generational line of some of the major players in slave trade. It seems that for this to have been a prolonged model of wealth building while over-riding the fundamental espoused values and ideals, not to mention the law, should give us all pause to calibrate our response to this historial reality. This also strongly prompts a look-around for other shameful atrocities like the events associated with the greed, lies, manipulation and evil treatment of Native Americans in the 19th century. We should be ashamed and how dare we sweep these under the historial rug! What possible expectation can we have for peace, respect and justice with such buried and unresolved “crimes of cultural” Thanks to PBS and Katrina’s family for such an engaging documentary.

  • D. B.

    FOREIGNID: 15998
    The people in this family who took part in this experience are impressive. Some had no interest, but those who did, I think, are people with a conscience. How can white people say that they feel no responsibility? How is this not like the holocaust? As a white person, I know that I have an easier existance–I KNOW it. I believe in reparations. Things have not been made right. Listen to a “Black,” an educated person who has the things of the world, money, etc…..listen to him/her talk about how there is difficulty in his/her everyday life and tell me that nothing is owed to them….why did we try to apologize and make up for the holocaust but not this? Those who feel no responsibility, would they trade places? I do not understand the callousness. We need to bring peace and justice to this issue………and the respect that one person owes another, just for being a person.

  • Martin

    FOREIGNID: 15999
    Questions and comments:
    Who are the “white people” who must take “responsibility”? Do my white ancestors who worked in the coal mines or emigrated to American in 1923 (and who were a quite different shade of white) bear the same level of responsibility as the descendants of slave traders? What responsibility must be borne by Asian Americans or multiracial Americans?
    What form should reparations take? Would reparations ultimately do more help or harm? Would they not (as was pointed out in the film) simply lead to more division among races, and perpetuate the position of the descendants of African-American slaves as second class citizens?
    As an American of European ancestry, I personally have witnessed the legacy of slavery and its ongoing repercussions on the African-American community. I do understand the anger (to the degree that I can). And I have no problem with an official apology from the federal government.
    But, as was also pointed out in the film, there continue today unceasing assaults on human dignity, and a continual need for repentance and opportunities for contrition. As the one poster who contributes to American Indian education as her way of making reparations, I would support similar, individually chosen attempts at leveling the playing field made after personal reflection.

  • Cindy Pless

    FOREIGNID: 16000
    Fascinating, to learn that “yankees”;( tongue in cheek), were also complicit in the slave trade. As a southern born girl of bonafide Choctaw ancestry (Dancing Rabbit Creek Tribe, Missisippi), what I find most interesting about this informative show, was the lack of dialogue about the fact that it was often Africans selling captured Africans from a battle into the slave trade. In addition, where was it mentioned that Native Americans were considered totally expendable? Does anyone who reads this blog know that Custer deliberately impregnated blankets with smallpox that he sent to Native tribes? Or that Andrew Jackson gained his fame through the slaughter of peaceful, trusting Natives? Why aren’t we talking about what happened to the Native Americans? Reparations? I teach at-risk youth in inner cities, yes, we’re talking about primarily “black” kids, and when I poll my classes, maybe one out of six classes , when I ask, who has a father at home, maybe one child will raise his hand…. Every one of us has to realize that life is what WE make it. Living in the past is negative, and accomplishes nothing. There have always been slaves, and conquerors. The issue is, what are YOU going to do with your life? Are you going to live a life of bitterness, living in the past? Or positivity? Are you going to teach your children hate, or love? Life is what we make it, and it is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Leave the past behind, understand that life in the present is what we make it, choose to live in the present, and understand that, if you have suffered in your life, that is a wonderful connection you have to others, and suffering teaches compassion, and empathy. Channel yourself, and serve others. Happines, like peace, comes from within. focusing on past wrongs will make you bitter. There can be no reparations. Walk away from the past, free, and serve others. Remember, we are all united in our humanity. Racism, and Nationalism, divides. We are all One. Why don’t we focus, instead, on how to preserve this beautiful pearl of a planet that we live upon? Unless we shift our conversation to what really matters, which is saving our ecosphere, all other conversations are moot. Focus on having a government that is truly a democracy, instead of being run by global corporations. Wake up. Live a sustainable lifestyle. All the other issues are meant to divide. United, we live. Divide, we lose.

  • MrsP

    FOREIGNID: 16001
    Oh, and one more thing-What about Richard Wright’s concept (in “Native Son”) of PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY???????

  • Chuck Maddox

    FOREIGNID: 16002
    This was a very thought provoking presentation. Certainly one of the ongoing stains of our country stems from its slavery past … how to erase that stain is the issue. I have thought about black-white relations for some time, and no clear answer to really improving relationships between the races jumps out to me. It will take a concerted national effort – will power and money – to really improve things. Needless to say – todays political climate (certainly including a right wing supreme court ) makes improvements even more problematic. Nonetheless talking about the issue is clearly better than pretending it doesn’t exist.
    Thank you for airing the show.

  • Anders

    FOREIGNID: 16003
    My ancestors came to the United States from Norway and Sweden in the late 19th century. Do I have anything to feel guilty about?

  • Martin

    FOREIGNID: 16004
    A P.S. to my post: I do realize that even my late-arriving European ancestors did have a freedom that many African-Americans did not earn until recent decades. But I also do believe that large-scale reparations would do little but perpetuate a divide that needed to be healed long ago.

  • Raoul

    FOREIGNID: 16005
    To me, this film is a little piece of of what can be a greater force of change in this country. It represents the pain each of us faces, each and every person, the persecutor and the persecuted, to truly look inward, confront the prejudices and anger and deep, scary stuff. I was heartened to see this small group of caucasians confront all this and openly, honestly discuss their innermost feelings. Not all black people want white people’s wealth and not all white people want to ignore history but enjoy their priveleged legacy. It is this group of common peoples that can lead this movement, as was evidenced in the church. It must come from a place of honesty and willingness to confront the hideous past. Eventually, we will all have nothing to fear because we will realize that equality of opportunities are not tied to the past, but are reset with each new day the good Lord bestows upon this blessed nation. We can all move forward once past injustices have been openly acknowledged, thoroughly discussed and all the anger and tears are bled out of us all. Then true recompense will need not be “gimme your money and property” nor browbeating guilt for the rest of your lives. It will be the universal committment to openness, truth and urgent action to making the field of life level for us ALL. When we achieve this heightened level of shared existence, affirmative action, white entitlement, sexism, racism, will become relics of our past. Let us all heal the past so we can move forward together. Please.

  • idonwanna noyou

    FOREIGNID: 16006
    Visit the stock trading rooms and explain the homogeneity there.
    Per capita there are more white drug addicts than black.
    Movies with white casts are general interest. Movies with black casts are ‘black movies.
    Outside of major cities, up thru the 1950′s, speaking correct English could get a black man killed.
    Why couldn’t I get a conversation about anything except basketball at my kids’ West Village, liberal school.
    If I live in Prospect Hts and you live on the upper East Side, what makes you my homey? And why do you assume that that is what I call my familiars?

  • Martin

    FOREIGNID: 16007
    To noyou: There are many shades of white… you seem to paint with a broad brush.

  • DeAnne Hart

    FOREIGNID: 16008
    A very thought-provoking film, moving and effective! Both individually and collectively we are capable of doing both great harm and great good. I realized this when I had to come to terms with my German roots after World War II and the Holocaust. I can acknowledge my relationship without taking responsibility for the actions of my ancestors. More important is the realization that we human beings are all connected, with much more in common than the trivial things that differentiate us…all brothers and sisters. I take responsibility for reaching out to others, beyond my comfort level.

  • Joel

    FOREIGNID: 16009
    You know every one has talk about grate deal of things.
    At some point heeling must begin. If no one will say it.
    Katrina I love you. Not what you just done. Because who
    You are my sister and I want you to known. It’s all history.
    It was bad for not just for blacks but for every one
    So I just hope that every one understand how that heeling is needed.
    In this world and it’s going to take love and time. I’ll pray for your family
    To more loveing and be strong where go. As long as lord wills you.
    Ps. By the way I am a black man
    If that mean any thing. Our lord pay this prize.For all Black and whites and many other as well have done past and now.
    I do Believe love and time we as pople will grow

  • Sharon

    FOREIGNID: 16010
    You may use HTML tags for style and links.
    I truly enjoyed the the film. I did a quick check on to see if there were any African American DeWolf’s , I noted a few. Could they have been descendants of the Dewolf slaves who the childrens nursery rhyme was about? Has any attempt been made to make a connection with any descendants of the slave trade?

  • Deb Valentine

    FOREIGNID: 16011
    There are lots of kinds of privelege in this country – class is one; race is another, gender another. It doesn’t make racism not real because there are also white people suffering from classism or Southerners from the wrong “the North” has done to the South in playing the “good guy” and in the terrible destruction that was done to Southern homes and people during and after the Civil War. I grieve with those of you who have suffered from these other forms of oppression. I also grieve when your suffering makes it so hard for you to believe the African American or Native American or someone else who tells you that there are wounds to heal and racism is not gone. I hope you will stay in the dialogue so as a national community we can walk toward healing together from many wounds and scars – we all are on both sides, sometimes wounded and other times the one who wounds, both as individuals and communities. I hope that we can keep seeking to understand and empathize with each other. It really isn’t easy.

  • M. Carman

    FOREIGNID: 16012
    I welcome this dialogue which this film fosters. Obama’s campaign has contributed to this process also, but the fact that he has gotten this far does not mean that racial inequity has improved very much. I just read the previous blog which says that the person writing has “no guilt, it’s all on your shoulders”. It is very convenient for us to feel that way and things can go on as usual. I am from the South and my family was not involved directly in slavery either, but I feel a sense of responsibility, as should all white people in this country. I don’t think the approach should be reparations exactly, but working, through the political process, to reverse the way that wealth is being redistributed upward and bring the poorest people in the country into the mainstream where they can fully participate in the system. Lawsuits will just enrich the lawyers. It will not accomplish what is needed.
    I have another book to add to the list I have seen that needs to be read by white people in this country. Douglas A. Blackmon’s SLAVERY BY ANOTHER NAME shows how many black men were re-enslaved after the Civil War right up until World War II. Is it any wonder that this underclass has never caught up. Almost everything that has been done to bring people into the Middle Class left out people of color. Now the economy is tanking again and who are the first to suffer? Of course it is those at the bottom of the economic ladder, as always. We need to take back the leadership of this country and turn it around once again, so that once and for all, we move to level the playing field and enable blacks and other poor people including recent immigrants to gain an education and begin to catch up with others in this country. This means tax the wealthy the way they were during the New Deal and use the money to bring about equity. People of good will need to join a Progressive organization and work to that end.

  • rodford

    FOREIGNID: 16013
    What a piece of liberal garbage!

  • tED vITEK

    FOREIGNID: 16014
    These movie makers have a loose screw.
    The slave trade was business as usual at the time.
    There is no way to make a reparation to the people removed from Africa into slavery.
    It can not be corrected now.
    Those slaves and the slave owners and traders are dead!
    These people who are asking for reparations want to provide SOMETHING to the black folk, living in the US now to, assauge their liberal guilt. Because as everyone should know the Yankee ship owners were making money off the trade.
    May as well talk about the various races that the Roman Empire enslaved!.

  • Natana Gill

    FOREIGNID: 16015
    As a descendent of slaves and those who gained from slavery, I found your program refreshing. I felt like I was witnessing an actual breakthrough in a usually stale conversation. Thank you for approaching this subject with such openess.

  • Peter Murray

    FOREIGNID: 16016
    This program about the De Wolf family was the worst drivel I have ever seen on television. More than sixty years ago my father told me how in some cultures ( I think it was China) the whole family would be punished for a crime committed by one of its members but that didn’t happen in the United States. We hold the individual responsible for his actions not the family. Here these people are five generations away and somehow feel guilty! They are exaggerating their importance. What about the Africans who originally enslaved the slaves? Why didn’t the film present any ashamed present day Africans for the participation of their ancestors but only accusatory ones? The concept of group guilt is condemned around the world. The Israeli policy of blowing up the homes of the parents of Palestinian terrorists was roundly condemned around the world and the Israeli government has correctly abandoned it.
    This is the most drivilous program I have ever seen on television. What about the Civil War? Didn’t white Americans pay an awful price in that conflict? Didn’t they pay an awful price for slavery?
    To compare that loss to the reconciliation concept of Bishop Tutu in South Africa is rediculous. In South Africa people said they were wrong to kill and subjugate others. In the Civil War hundreds of thousaands gave their lives on the battlefield to end the vicious system of slavery. Hundreds of thousands died trying to preserve it. They failed and they died. The civil war was the atonement for slavery and a very harsh one indeed!
    Drivel, Drivel, Drivel!
    Slavery was wrong. The North was equally guilty. The descendants of Slave Traders, slave holders are not to blame. Are todays Germans guilty of the Holocaust?
    This program represents the worst drivel I have ever seen on television featuring a few self absorbed, self important, members of the De Wolf family who can’t come to grips with the fact that their lives as significant as they might be in other contexts are totally irrelevant to the abuses that occurred during the period of slavery, that if they should seek to do good in the world they can do so in so many ways, There are many injustices in the world. They have no obligation to redress the evils of slavery just because an ancestor was a slave trader. They should feel free work for poor people who have no health insurance, have low incomes and can’t provide adequately for their children. They might consider the plight of illegal immigrants and the exploitation the suffer. The good works they might do would be generated by the fact that they as individuals have an obligation to help others not that they as descendants of brigands must repair the damage done by their scoundrel ancestors.
    In spite of this there was one excellent aspect of this program. It showed that slavery was not limited to the South and that the North profited from slavery and promoted it.

  • Glenn

    FOREIGNID: 16017
    These people (the DeWolfs) have too much time on their hands and spent it pathetically wringing such hands in the faux psychotherapeutic farce. I have to agree with those who more vehemently made fun of these depressed , deep-thinking New Englander, Episcopalians. And by the way the African Black Anglicans are separating from these kooky American Episcopals. Yes, why don’t we just give all the reparations money to Al Sharpton and let him manage the trust fund? The Devil is in the details in reparations, no?
    Also why wasn’t modern slavery even mentioned, or why wouldn’t this be something that can and should be addressed right now? The black chick producer said, my people. What kind of racist crap is that? Why didn’t the show address how slaves were sometimes sold by family members or tribes who were shunning unwanted members of their community?
    edited by moderator for language

  • James DeWolf Perry

    FOREIGNID: 16018
    Sharon, in answer to your question, we haven’t found anyone who we know to be descended from the two African children brought back to Rhode Island by James D’Wolf. But we have been in touch with a few black DeWolf descendants, and we are continuing to seek out descendants of the slaves trafficked by our ancestors.

  • Wayaaseshkang

    FOREIGNID: 16019
    Certainly, any given presentation can not be all encompassing but let us keep in mind the point of beginning. Slavery first began in the Americas with the European enslavement of its Indigenous people. The import of Black Africans was after that fact but it has become the exculsive story. All stories have a beginning, middle, and ending. It is not clear where this story is currently at.

  • Darrell Smith

    FOREIGNID: 16020
    Mixed feelings. I appreciated this as being the personal experience of the people involved; however, I do not accept generalizations of any kind. The filmmaker stated near the end that she understood how any white person may think “But I didn’t do it!” I’m glad she understands that. The feelings expressed in this film are felt by many people, but I absolutely refuse any overall sense of “white guilt” that I’m supposed to feel. This is because I am as disgusted and bewildered by the actions of slaveholders and racists as anyone whose skin is not white, have felt that way as long as I can remember. I am half Italian. Many female ancestors on that side of the family were kidnapped and raped by African pirates hundreds of years ago. We all have personal connections to the past that are painful to think of, and should deal with them honestly and openly, but WITHOUT attributing past actions to an ENTIRE RACE of people! Racism is racism no matter where it comes from, or who it comes from…same thing with all forms of hatred. One thing I agree with is that there should indeed be more honest conversation about it. This film failed to mention that the slave trade was not exclusively done by simply taking people by force–some African kings actually sold their own people (though that may not apply to the particulars of THIS story). That’s a fact. Look into it yourself. I think some people may need the “push” this film is giving toward “reparations,” but I don’t appreciate its assumption that everyone white needs that push. I’ve always talked openly about it and am always ready for more! What gets to be a problem too often is that people think SOLELY from a perspective of race. Again, I can’t understand the actions of people in the past any more than the next guy…but by the same token, I also can’t understand generalizations. I cannot FEEL or BE guilty because I happen to have white skin. That said, I’m happy for the actions and sincerity on the part of everyone involved in the story, in its own context, and I wish them continued success on their journey.

  • Harold L. Lucas

    FOREIGNID: 16021
    Watched the program with great interest. We can go to work immediately in righting the wrongs by forging Community Benefits Agreements in all the major cities where Blacks have been restricted and disenfranchised. Take a good look at Bronzeville in Chicago and Harlem in New York. Both historicaly significant African American communities are faced with the potential loss of their authentic cultural heritage in the corrupt process of urban regentrification!
    Harold L Lucas

  • N. Krieg

    FOREIGNID: 16022
    The disparity that originated in slavery continues and when the wealthy are
    prospering racism comes back into play. Both whites and African Americans
    feel this inequity in the struggle for resources. And as the balance of wealth
    shifts in the US, we will become aware of how we’re being cheated emotionally
    by things we thought that mattered. I can’t change the past but I can live now
    as though love is real.

  • Joseph

    FOREIGNID: 16023
    White America today does not need to feel guilty about slavery, which was something their forefathers did. I believe White America need to focus on seeing African Americans as a people and communicate with them ands understand them as Americans. At this time we must move forward and release the racism that many Whites and African American still hold. I disagree with Juanita about White people take responsibility; just the same way I can not take responsibility for my brother who has committed a crime.
    I do not blame White America of today for slavery to my people. They still continual hold racism and certain boundaries they keep between us.

  • John Butler

    FOREIGNID: 16024
    You may use HTML tags for style and links.
    Kudos to the producers! As others have said, this is an important “first” step in popularizing the discussion of how white America needs to process the history and implications of America’s original sin of slavery; it must ultimately absolve itself of and atone for the legacy and vestiges of white privilege, belief in white supremacy and black inferiority that slavery was premised on.
    To those who say, “It wasn’t me or mine”, you are missing the point. All of white America, north and south, east and west, benefited historically and to this day from slavery and the relative privilege accorded whiteness. To those who say, “Stop whining; get an eduction and get a job”; consider the disparity today in school systems depending on where you live, that in many respects stems from the economic disparities that continue as the legacies of slavery and Jim Crow, not 8-10 generations ago, but only 2 generations ago.
    White people coming to terms with this history, seeking self-understanding, absolution, reconciliation and atonement is not the final answer. There is much that blacks have to continue to do in their own regard. But it is high time that whites begin to deal with their history and its legacy. Until the dialogue exemplified by this documentary is taken up more broadly and brought to some degree of resolution, America will not have come to terms with what remains to be done for the achievement of a “more perfect union”.

  • Melissa

    FOREIGNID: 16025
    Having lived in the South all my life, I have never had any black person I know bring up the slave issue to me or anyone I know. Maybe it’s because in the South, we let the issue die. Everyone has heard of the ‘new South’. There’s nothing new about the South, it’s just a new generation who are tied of dealing with something we had no part in. In my part of the South we are more worried about our kids, making sure they have enough food, enough clothes, that they keep off drugs and don’t drink and drive. We are worried about keeping our jobs in this uncertain economy. We are not worried about apologizing for something we had nothing to do with.

  • F. Arvoitan

    FOREIGNID: 16026
    Sorry, but I don’t identify with the guilt of the white elite. My folks weren’t here during the time of slavery and I feel no ancestral guilt over it. I’ve always lived in racially mixed neighborhoods, attended racially mixed schools, and worked in a racially mixed workplace. Black Americans are not abstract concepts to me, nor is the predjudice I’ve seen directed at them.
    Was slavery wrong? You bet, but all I heard was whining from people who are now feeling social pressure to acknowledge their ties to that system. Where were they 10 years ago, 20 years ago, 30 years ago? Their sense of guilt is their own; I see no need for me to be drawn into their attempts at reparations. I’d rather see people make a personal committment to living inclusive rather than exclusive lives, to break out of the white enclaves, to allow their kids to “mix”, to break the generational sense of entitlement and privilege. You can make all the public “I’m sorrys” that you want, but unless the underlying mentality is changed, and people are just viewed as fellow human beings rather than a color or a guilt trip, the society will remain unchanged.

  • Tacitus

    FOREIGNID: 16027
    White guilt is unfounded ! American slavery of 200 years ago ? Get over it people. and grow up. The history of the human race has had its bumps in the road and the USA is no different. Fact is that there has never been nor will there ever be a utopia, so stop comparing our great country to something that never existed. Compare the US to Sub Saharan Africa instead, focusing on such stats as life expectancy or standard of living. We have it good !

  • Melissa

    FOREIGNID: 16028
    Having lived in the South all my life, I have never had any black person I know bring up the slave issue to me or anyone I know. Maybe it’s because in the South, we let the issue die. Everyone has heard of the ‘new South’. There’s nothing new about the South, it’s just a new generation who are tied of dealing with something we had no part in. In my part of the South we are more worried about our kids, making sure they have enough food, enough clothes, that they keep off drugs and don’t drink and drive. We are worried about keeping our jobs in this uncertain economy. We are not worried about apologizing for something we had nothing to do with.

  • Rob

    FOREIGNID: 16029
    An ultra-liberal’s attempt to deal with her guilt while hoping she can cause others to take up her cross. She, like many, evidently knows little to nothing about the concept of slavery but much about how to perpetuate the entitlement generation’s idea of how everyone owes them for something in which they, like she, had no involvement.

  • Tashaka Budd

    FOREIGNID: 16030
    As I watched the program tonight I couldn’t help but remember the stories of my own family members who were involved in the slave trade. Whether they were traders, slaves or free slaves, the legacy of my family is dark. My family started from a mixture of European and African. In my family history, the children were encouraged to marry within the family to keep the caramel or fair colored skin. This was done to avoid slavery. The children born with darker skin were sold into slavery by their family for a profit of some kind. This documentary was wonderful for the people involved. It was good for me to see White Americans go through the processes of attempting to understand the depth of the slave trade. I have tried to think of ideas or conversations I would have with my White American colleagues. It is sad to say that I don’t feel they would be open to discuss taking actions to heal the scars of slavery on our nation. I do feel that this film should be shown in movie theaters and schools across the nation and every person should digest its meaning. Everyone has a responsibility to make an effort to understand it and work hard towards a complete resolution. Thank you for making “Traces of the Trade: A Story from the Deep North.”

  • David Ben-Ariel

    FOREIGNID: 16031
    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

  • Johnson Ebiotu

    FOREIGNID: 16032
    You may use HTML tags for style and links.
    I will like to commend Katrina Brown for the soul serching documentary. The issue of slavery has been avoided in our national discussion for reasons beyond my imagination. In my opinion, most white people are unconfortable with discussing slavery and race matters. As a naturalized African American, I will be content with an official apology from our government, but sincere discussions on the evils of slavery and racism must continue. As a black man who have experienced racism , I can understand why some African Americans are angry. White America should do more to understand black sociology, it may alleviate tensions. I am very saddened by the level of racism in our society. Katrina saga in New Orleans was a national disgrace. I also want to use this forum to thank the numerous white citizens doing their best to stand up for fairness and justices, again thank you Mrs. Katrina Brown.

  • Dennis Auber

    FOREIGNID: 16033
    Saw the show on tv. Was okay i guess, i comend you though for braving such a Hot Issue.I’m Originally from Sierra Leone , One of the Countries Raped in this illegally Trade , I’m what you call a Creole from Feetown, Just wanted to Educate you on a Few Points you Might Have missed. Firstly , Slavery was Abolished not in Late 1890s as you Stated. Slavery was actuallly Abolished in 1772, Lord Mansfield Decision. Matter of Fact Britain & France attacked American Ships on the High seas carrying Slave Ships.This was to to lead to your American War of Independence. Check Sierra Leonean History. Secondly, How can any African in his or her Right Mind forgive either you or your Collegues when we are still experiencing what i call Neo Colonial Despair. A symptom not only including Price Dictations, but devalutions of our Currencies, setting Puppets Regiems in Africa & Constantly testing biological Weapons on us like Guinea Pigs. I mean Aids.Dont Forget both 1st & 2nd World War were fougt in both Africa, A Continent that nothing to do with it?And Lastly , Never Compare Our Plight or Liken it to the Jews .? I dont think any African wants to hear any of that Garbage.Dont know if this is a Scheme you are Pulling, cause our Generation of Africans will Never ever go thru what our Ancestors went thru.Times are about to change , just sit & watch.

  • Katherine Williams

    FOREIGNID: 16034
    I believe on an experiential, not intellectual, level that the least interesting thing about us is the color of the one or two millimeters of skin covering us. The skin itself is very interesting. We breathe through it. We “see” through it. We interact with the atmosphere, other beings through it. The spiritual fire inside is what is interesting, nothing about the corporeal reality enclosing it, not where it goes out or in, or where it is symmetrical or asymmetrical, not the color of it. We apply these labels, black, white, fat, thin, young, old, beautiful, ugly, but it has nothing to do with the actual experience. This I believe, and, as I said, I know in a way beyond words. However, this is on an ultimate or spiritual level. On a mundane or worldly level, the color of one’s skin determines a lot about us in this life, where we live, whether we finish school, how much money we make, how long we live, etc. So, this confusion between a true color-blind reality and the mundane reality plane on which we live is some of the source of the problem. I believe this movie addressed mostly the mundane reality level, occasionally touched the other level but not very often. However, it works very well on that level to get people talking. I watched it because it occurred to me that my great grandfather was a Norwegian sea captain in the late 19th century. Since we know from the film the slave trade actually continued beyond 1875, it is highly probable he was involved in some of the ferrying back and forth of slaves, cotton, and rum, involved in the triangle trade. It made me want to find out more about his actual routes and job, although I don’t know how to go about researching this. I agree with the participant who felt that reparations are the “only game in town.” Just words, research, apologies, won’t make up for what was stolen from Africa. Many of the horrible problems left behind by colonialism in Africa are the direct result. And it is ridiculous to say “I wasn’t involved,” or even “my ancestors were immigrants” not slave owners or traders. Everyone was involved, immigrants who worked in factories in both North America AND in Europe were involved in this triangle trade. And we are all involved in the modern triangle trades going on, dollars to diamonds to cocaine, trafficking in humans has not ended. We are especially involved if we choose to deny it is happening. The prosperity of America and Europe were built on the slave trade. It fueled not only the local prosperity of the South, but the expansion to the West and “manifest destiny.” It resulted in the genocide of the Native Americans in “reservations,” and cycled back to Africa in the Bantustans. So now that the subject is broached, and I think Katrina did it very humanly, perhaps a website can be launched to chart these new waters, provide links and actual ways to help. Thanks.

  • Edna J. McDaniel

    FOREIGNID: 16035
    To the DeWolf family, I applaud your openness to come out and share the dark history of your family. I encourage you to continue this openness and continue to talk about how the sins of your family’s (Slavery). I watched the documentary with my 15 year old son and we both agreed that it took courage to expose a family history of slave trading.
    I pray that God continues to use you to make a difference and working to try and bring healing to a much needed issue. One cannot dispute that Slave Trading was wrong and is wrong. I do not have the answers to what it will take to make race relations better, but I believe that dialogue and truth can go a long way and if God is willing a change will be made.
    Let us continue to pray and ask God to help us heal. You pray and I will pray and together let us all pray.
    Thank you for your honesty and openness. An excellent start in the right direction!

  • John Laird

    FOREIGNID: 16036
    First, I respect your attempt at understanding the genocide your ancestors created and profitted from. I believe that you are sincere in revealing the inherited white is might mentality that your foerfathers made sacrosant.
    Two hundred and fifty years of free labor and another hundred years of social and economic strangulation by a racist white America is still active for many Black people. No other race has ever been in bondage like Black Americans in regards to the institution of slavery. Thank you for at least opening up dialog to this institutional socio-political legacy of the historical slave trade and your family’s participation. Last but not least, I’m a Black male who still have a hard time in communicating with white people because of my own bitterness for what I have had to endure living in a racist America.

  • Niya

    FOREIGNID: 16037
    I too find the program honest and candid. While I believe there are some that will still be too comfortable with their “white priviledge” to digest some of the finer points that the filmmaker and family members were making. I applaud even the audacity of the filmmaker and her family to take such a bold journey and to make a film to address it to the wider audience of the white American community. The comments that responded negatively simply are those not yet able to face the ugliness of the history and therefore shun any concept of any shame or guilt. These are the sad souls that we must forgive because they are so sad.
    I give credit to those that for the first time are seeing the errors of their past perceptions and seek healing after seeing this film. I encourage you to venture out of your comfort zone and start to be open to dialogue. While uncomfortable at first, it is essential to the healing process.
    As uncomfortable as it may be for some to conceive, we live in a society in America that, due to the slave trade, has systemically made a group of people stigmatized as being inferior. It is because of the systemic racism that ALL Whites (without exception) have benefitted for hundreds of years that all shoulder the burden of the legacy of the slave trade (whether your ancestors traded slaves or not). Racism was in education, hiring practices, economic empowerment and politics — all Whites had advantages over the years that Blacks did not have because their skin color. Acknowledge it and seek to change the effects of it –the underlining theme of the entire film.
    What struck me was the comment of how even now that we are unconcious how our commerce finances the slave-like labor of 3rd world countries. How certain people in the world provide goods and services for pennies and live in obscene poverty. I found myself disturbed how I am guilty of being ambivalent about it even as a descedant of former American slaves and asked myself why this is so. I have resolved to also take responsiblity and change my behavior in this regard.
    I thank the filmmaker, the family and PBS for venturing out to make all this possible. I think you have done the world a great service and certainly THIS is a step in the right direction of redefining the De Wolf Legacy (Once Slave Traders turned Truth and Reconciliation Leaders). How awesome is that?!Keep up the good works.

  • Dave Aumock

    FOREIGNID: 16038
    What a bunch of liberal crap. Let Katrina deal with her guilt for the actions of her family without trying to drag the rest of us along with her. Slavery was a fact of life for thousands of years. What race was not a victim of slavery at some time or another. The machine age eliminated the need for slaves to do the work of building cities and producing food and other goods. Instead of giving more handouts we should support people like Bill Cosby and others who are trying to get black men to be responsible for the children they produce. Also, the attitude of many young blacks that doing well in school is “not cool” or is “trying to act white” is setting them up for failure.

  • Armen

    FOREIGNID: 16039
    Mary Mura, June 24, 2008 11:28 PM writes:
    “Those who benefited from slave trade need to be the ones to deal with their indebtedness to the people they wronged, not me. I feel a need to repay Native Americans, as I am living in and on the land that once was theirs. ”
    Mary yes you are living on land that once belonged to Native Americans, but you are also living in a wealthy nation, and that wealth was built on SLAVE LABOR.
    No, I’m not black. I am as white as they come and my family came even later than yours but I feel an apology and reparations are needed. Slavery was indeed the black holocaust.

  • kevin

    FOREIGNID: 16040
    I suggest the filmaker liquidate her and her family’s assets and give the proceeds to predominately black institutions and or individuals of their choosing. They may then start over without the assumed benefits of slavery. Maybe this economic exercise will assist them in assuaging their feelings of
    unwarranted privledge. Of course one can’t give up there education( in this racisit , racist country), but how about 10 years working free in a black household. Of course one would also need to repay the benefits to their ancestors, so maybe their offspring could work the same arrangement for the next 100 years or so. Then again there is interest.
    I wonder if this type of thinking will catch on with the Greeks, Romans, and every other society in the last 5000+ years who had endulged in slavery. We might all owe each other sooner or later.
    Don’t forget the reparations needed from some blacks in Africa who traded there brothers to the barbarian Europeans at a profit.
    If you really want some redemtion, get to where the slave trade is still practiced and but a stop to those Arab and black traders imediately.
    The whole notion is an exercise in self absored and arrogant behavior.
    Keep your guilt to yourself, and lay off your ancestors or you may be judged in a few generations as a foolish snob.
    Nice to put it on the country as a whole, considering the small percentage of slave owners (black and white) and there decendents. I know , I know we all benefited enormously from slavery. Tell that to my Irish ancestors.
    If you think these comments are too defensive, that’s ok. I thought the film was quite offensive and a monument to political correctness. We all have an idea of how political correctness is akin to the thought police. Keep it up.
    Lastly, how many poor blacks have you invited to live in your house before you sell it of course to pay back YOUR debt.

  • Karriem

    FOREIGNID: 16041
    Hey Katrina,
    My forefather was one of those black elders who sold my people to your family. He settled in Virginia as a “free black.” My family also attend Ivy league schools & preparatory schools. I grew up in the second largest house in America. Growing up my father changed his name and kept us apart from his family. I don’t think about guilt, or shame. We are all here now, and we must all keep working to make lemonade out of all these lemons.

  • Patricia Davis

    FOREIGNID: 16042
    Unfortunately, I did not view the full documentary. What I did view, was outstanding. Her/family’s sincerity, willingness to be vulnerable and their expression of the total experience gives me much hope as an African American, that if not today, we can resolve the guilt, mistrust, fear and social/economic disparity we experience in this country “we built” together.

  • Tim Mondero

    FOREIGNID: 16043
    Did not catch all of the show. I was surfing channels and found it and became interested. What I saw was moving and it is a story that more need to see. From the comments I have seen most of the people who watched it do agree something needs to change. Slavery is at the heart of the racist attitudes on both sides. The problem is, the people who really need to see this would not even turn on PBS in the first place. Things have come far, but there is still far more to be done to resolve the issues between black and white. We need adult conversations to figure out the solutions, not hatred to one another. There is enough hatred on both sides that this issue will never be resolved. Some do not want it resolved because if it is who can they blame for all the world problems then. I found the film rather powerful in its message and hope that it gets out to more people. I can say I am proud to be of the white race, though as soon as I say it many will lable me a racist. I know the white race has done many things I am not proud of like slavery, the near genocide of the American Indians, the forced imprisonment of anyone who looked Asian during WW II, the mistreatment of Chinese building the railroads, and even the mistreatment of many of our own race like the early Irish immigrants. Yet we have done some great things too. We will never solve these sorts of issues until we can agree that all of us belong to one race no matter what color your skin is or what relegion you believe in, We all are brothers and sisters of the Human Race.

  • Shirley Shaw

    FOREIGNID: 16044
    I was very moved by this documentry and I want to thank the members of the De Wolf family who participated in this story. Many things have happened and continue to happen in ‘this world’ that people of all races should be ashamed. That is why Christ made the sacrifice for All who believe and only He can set us free!.
    In my community of mostly a white race we had a group of black Christians settle after Hurricane Katrina. I felt compelled to make an attempt to welcome them and in some way let them know I wanted to apologize for the racial discrimination that continues in America.
    Upon my surprise visit to the headquarters for this group I was greeted with great apprehension and made to feel as though I was not welcomed. They want to be left alone. When I would not leave, I wasfinally allowed to speak to the Pastor/Leader’s wife on the telephone who was nice but very defensive. I left feeling as though I needed to try harder to reassure this group that I meant well.
    Later I visited their website and sent an email to the Pastor/Leader but no one ever responded. My email was an apology for the seperation of our race as well as complement them for the differences I acknowledge between them and myself, not as a white person but rather just as a person. I tried to show them I am humbled by, amoung other things, their natural talents and good nature. I am not a highly educated person but I felt I did my best and I do not harbor any ill feelings for them not having responded to my pouring out my heart to them.
    It is my experience that while some people respond to hashing out problems I have come to believe that maybe a better resolution to issues as serious and as sensitive as apologizing and acknowledging slavery may be to just simply praise each other for who who are and for those natural abilities each race was given by God which is what really seperates from each other. We all know what they are but we do not emphasize those qualities in each other… not even within our own race.
    Perhaps by focusing and praising those natural abilities we may one day be comfortable enough with each other that our apologies will be acepted as genuine.
    I am opposed to reparations simply because that seems to me to add insult to injury and it can never take the place of damaged human emotions. As it says in the Bible: “It is easier to defend a fortifed city than to win the favor of an offended friend.”
    God Bless You and to this Great Country we All share!

  • Pamela

    FOREIGNID: 16045
    You may use HTML tags for style and links.
    Katrina, hi, the only way you could have known about what your heart was feeling was to actually go through with the project designed only for you. We were all born with special gifts and many talents, but most people never use all they have been blessed with ,including myself. You have inspired me with your film documentary. I have always wanted to do a documentary, but didnt and still do not have the capital I need to make all the proper connections. Ghana is a favorite place in my life now. My son did a sixs week study abroad there before his college graduation. This is where he met his wife.(Rib) :). I am so grateful and honored to have her in my family. The time, care and concern you have put into this documentary, I beleive this is what God has called all humanity to do. Forgive, a time of healing and restoration, so that we can all come into unity. Sure it hurts knowing we, african americans have always gotten second best, but Christ died so that we all can have the best thing in this life.Now days, we take everything for granted. Im happy and blessed we are not being charged for the air we breath, the sunshine we enjoy, the moonlight that is beautiful. The snow and rain. The sweet sound of birds on a beautiful morning ect… Your documentary have allowed many to stay focused on the real issue, LOVE.

  • L.Merlo

    FOREIGNID: 16046
    I do not know what the answer is but reparation is not the solution. Too many cultures have been wronged in this country. Where would the reparation stop? Which race would be considered? Would the raparation be limited only to African-Americans? Chinese? Native-Americans?
    What could be considered is helping everyone with higher education. Preparing young children with the proper training, mind set if you will, from pre-K to high school. Train them, show them how to get to college, and also include guidance for the sociiological experience that college represents. Another aspect of this training could be vocational for older children that show an interest or talent. Give all kids options!

  • Cracker

    FOREIGNID: 16047
    When Katrina Browne spoke of “white Americans” she meant that small proportion of white Americans who are like the DeWolfs and their decendents. There are other white Americans who came to the Colonies under hardship, were spurned from places like New England because of their religion, were forced into the backwoods to scratch out a living while fightning off Indians. They worked in the coal mines and on the railroads. They never went to Harvard. If they finally got to college 5 generations later it was on the GI bill to a state college, and they were grateful. When ideas such as reparations and affirmative action are proposed, it is these white people who end up paying the price. Not the Phillips Academy crowd. Just because we are also white, don’t assume that we have anything else in common in our experience to the DeWolfs or their decendents.

  • Dee Hart

    FOREIGNID: 16048
    Did the people runing the family museum at least acknowledge that the house was built for the proceeds of the slave trade?

  • Natana Gill

    FOREIGNID: 16049
    In direct response to Juanita’s comment, slavery is not only the responsibility of white people. Black people also own slaves in the United States (though the numbers were not as great). We all need to stop pointing fingers and simply have an honest discussion, acknowledging responsibility on all sides.

  • Norma Howard

    FOREIGNID: 16050
    I did find it heart warming to see people exposing their family’s part in Amerca’s not so pleasant past. What I find sad and a bit madding is the talk of money. Money will not undo the damage that has been done to African Americans (mentally and emotionally). So many of us still suffer from what I call “slave mentality”. So many of us still don’t see or understand that the old way of doing things is not the way that things are done today! The thing that upsets me is that a lot of white people still don’t get it. It’s not so much about what was done to my ancestors by your ancestors, the real issue today is what their decendents are doing to the decendents of the slaves today. I think the insult to African Americans today it to be told by white america, to get over it because racism does not exist in America today. The scary part is that a big part of white americans are closet racists, They know that they probably get away with lynching with a rope, so they do it in other ways. But be that as it may, I am still glad to be an AMERICAN!

  • Margaret Schiltz

    FOREIGNID: 16051
    I thank Katrina Browne for the courage to face her family’s slave trade history in such a direct way. I thank her for sharing it with us. It is time that we face the ugly side of our American history and make reparation for it. This injustice affects us to this day, both blacks, whites, and all Americans. It is an open wound. It is time to heal it. This is a good step in the right direction by the white community (especially those of us who have ancestry that goes back to the founding of the U.S.) I agree that the white citizens need to begin to look this issue squarely in the eye for what it was and is so that we can hash it out amongst ourselves. I am ready for this conversation. Let’s break the silence.

  • Patricia

    FOREIGNID: 16052
    After having watched the program, I have to say that I am somewhat disappointed. The premise of the story intrigued me. The historical, and genealogical, aspects of the film were quite interesting. But the majority of the family members did appear to me to be self-serving. I may be swayed as to the sincerity of the group upon further investigation into what actions have been taken after all the “soul-searching”, and the camera was shut-off. I look forward to reading the book, perhaps it will give a more complete picture of the project, and a better perspective of the participants.

  • OC

    FOREIGNID: 16053
    Interestingly enough I was watching “LA AMISTAD” last night. The connection is so obvious! To the De Wolf family members who took part…: Thank you for your courage. Your next stop is Congress. Reparation is one thing, but an apology and the adoption of a National or International Day of Reconciliation would make a lot more sense.
    My ancestors earned their freedom by using armed revolts against the French in 1804 and my native country became independent. But I’ll tell you this: Today I’m still angry at what brought us to this Continent in the first place, ( maybe even angrier than my ancestors after reading some of the comments posted ) because the issue of slavery was never addressed at the level you are suggesting. We cannot forget about it: Slavery was a particularly cruel premeditated crime against Humanity.

  • Randolph Phillips

    FOREIGNID: 16054
    I was appalled by this political correctness drivel and marxiism. I wasn’t surprised, of course.
    The whole idea of “reparations” is ludicrous, not to mention having no standing at law. As for “reconciliation commissions”, they are descendants of the show trials of Stalinist Russia where innocent people admitted to “crimes” and were executed or sent to the gulag, and Mao’s “cultural revolution” where the past was exterminated and the public was “re-educated” (we call it diversity training). South Africa’s reconciliation commision, after all, was a product of marxist Mandela and his African National Congress government.
    White Guilt “liberalism” is the hall mark of Ms. Browne’s film. As reality, it is definitely surreal, as propaganda it is likely quite effective in the political correctness hysteria sweeping american society.
    Does anyone doubt virtually everyone in this film is for Barack Obama, racialist, for President?

  • Willie Yanock

    FOREIGNID: 16055
    My grandfather and grandmother immigrated to the USA at the turn of the century he died in the coal mines. My father almost died in WW II. The problem that the author has is a personal one. My family never owned a slave nor ever benefited from slavery. Pbs once had a series about the Civil War and the one quote that I remember is when one asked the Irish southern soldier why the south lost he replied “Cause the north had more Irish.” Perhaps some Harvard elitists should educate themselves about immigration of Europeans rather than how their family broke all the laws only to enrich themselves.

  • Naima K. Wade

    FOREIGNID: 16056
    Thank you POV for allowing the De Wolf’s to tell their story, tell it well, and
    tell the trurth’. I’m reminded by something Albert Einstien said’ ” you can’t solve a problem from the same conciousness that created it. you must learn to see the world anew.’ another world is possible.. another us is possible, Alice Lovelace.
    The hour of loss of dignity and peace Is surely not dead. Kenneth Patchen.
    Let us begin to envision a new us.. it is necessary. We will either co-exist or co destruct. Everyboby should understand; that everybody brings a piece to the table and the table is not complete until everybody’s there. Let’s do this with a sense of grace. We can get to that place by using our imagination to go past and beyond this horrific ancient curse called economic enslavement.
    Revision what Social Justice is.. is it still an American value? regardless of privilege or status. Katrina Browne, and the others provided a new legacy of inspiration for human rights activism in our own back yard.
    I am a black woman living in Vermont, the whitest state iin our nation, and the state that voted overwhelmingly for Obama for president . Another us is necessary. Naima K. Wade, Cultural Worker and Writer Living in Vermont

  • Naima K. Wade

    FOREIGNID: 16057
    Thank you POV for allowing the De Wolf’s to tell their story, tell it well, and
    tell the trurth’. I’m reminded by something Albert Einstien said’ ” you can’t solve a problem from the same conciousness that created it. you must learn to see the world anew.’ another world is possible.. another us is possible, Alice Lovelace.
    The hour of loss of dignity and peace Is surely not dead. Kenneth Patchen.
    Let us begin to envision a new us.. it is necessary. We will either co-exist or co destruct. Everyboby should understand; that everybody brings a piece to the table and the table is not complete until everybody’s there. Let’s do this with a sense of grace. We can get to that place by using our imagination to go past and beyond this horrific ancient curse called economic enslavement.
    Revision what Social Justice is.. is it still an American value? regardless of privilege or status. Katrina Browne, and the others provided a new legacy of inspiration for human rights activism in our own back yard.
    I am a black woman living in Vermont, the whitest state iin our nation, and the state that voted overwhelmingly for Obama for president . Another us is necessary. Naima K. Wade, Cultural Worker and Writer Living in Vermont

  • Sue

    FOREIGNID: 16058
    Good program. As a mixed Chippewa-Cree descendent of French Canadian trappers and traders (Metis or mixed blood) along with a generous mixture of various European immigrants, I tend to think about wrongs perpetrated on tribes rather than wrongs perpetrated on black slaves. Unfortunately, both races still suffer because of prejudice, and inequality of opportunity. Is it possible to actually have a national conversation about our national past?

  • Sharon Clark

    FOREIGNID: 16059
    Like the abolitionists, Ms. Brown, of the DeWolf family, appears to be mounted for a fire and brimstone crusade which could result in anger and divisiveness.
    Rather would I propose a restoration of the principles of a Constitutional Republic and the rights we have so recently lost, which could again be enjoyed by citizens of all races.
    If Ms. Brown wishes to engage in self-flagellation for the wrongs of her ancestors, she should not demand that others be forced to join her in this folly.
    Sharon S. Clark
    Columbia, South Carolina

  • Pat Ballard

    FOREIGNID: 16060
    This story, told in the usual PBS bland style, is about a bunch of anal, shallow supposidly highly educated masochists.who are trying to define guilt. Whiles owe absolutely nothing to blacks. Blacks in fact owe a great deal to the slave traders for bringing them across thousands of years of evolution and aculturation in civil society. It was not a pleasant experience, but rarely is anything worthwhile. People died to establish christain religion. Do the Italians, descendants of the Roman Empire owe me anything. Does Britan owe the US reparations for their Declaration of Independence. No. Did Homo Sapien owe Neanderthal for contributing to their demise. No. In every case, with pain the world evolves into a better, more sophisticed place in which to compete against Mother Nature who indeed will wipe out the weak without regard to race, color, creed or religion. Get real. Focus on the reality and stop creating illusory issues that have nothing to do with the survival of the human race. Katrina Browne obviously has a lot of idle time on her filmmaking hands.

  • V. Lewis

    FOREIGNID: 16061
    Very masterfully done. I found Katrina’s narrative through out the film to be powerfully moving and sage with compellingly candor. Yes, there is a very real chasm in our American Society that was systemically designed and is perpetuated today on all socio-economic levels to ensure that African descendants are kept at in a disadvantaged position compared to the European descendants. [As was discussed on a recent Bill Moyers program by the distinguished Harvard Professor, Glenn C. Loury, and scholarly described in his book, "The Anatomy of Racial Inequality."]
    And as she concluded in the film, while holding back her emotions, affirmative efforts to ameliorate this human condition should begin with the process Katrina said begins with ‘recognizing it, atoning for it (including some form of reparations, i.e. on a Social or Governmental Policy level)…and do something to constructively correct it by making the damaged party whole’. To begin that journey, our respective churches and religious organizations are excellent vehicles to begin that journey and act as our moral compasses to keep us headed in the right direction to attain that goal….

  • Victoria A. Hurst

    FOREIGNID: 16062
    I believe that the slave trade was wrong and that as a society we are responsible. The “melting pot” of America is made up of people of different races and with different ancestors, but no matter where you came from, you are a part of this world. The tragedies of our past, and present, must be dealt with today so that our imperfections can be put behind us and our hearts can be put to rest, allowing future generations to be free of the social and physical strains that these issues create. I was not here for the slave trade, the killing of Native Americans, or the Holocaust, but I, as a human being, feel that these are issues that deal with us, as a worldly society, and need to be dealt with, without the preconceived notions about color, religion, or sex. We wronged, and if we do not forgive, and help to repair the damages done to our society we will never change, and never become truly free. I am here, for the genocide in Darfur, the killing in the Middle East, and the in action of the world to better itself. I, as a twenty year old, feel so much potential for my generation to find love and peace where others have failed, but the world can not be changed by one generation alone. We need to seek within our souls, and our hearts the a middle road, that does not forget, but does forgive, in the hopes of a better future. A world that does not judge based on external things, but rather looks within a neighbors eyes, into their inner soul, and feels nothing but love for this being,……this human being.

  • John Perna

    FOREIGNID: 16063
    On the Concept of Reparations for the Enslavement of Ancestors
    by John Perna © 2000 Permission to republish once is granted
    Henry Louis Gates, Jr., the chairman of Afro-American Studies at Harvard University, and other Black professionals, are now calling loudly for the payment of reparations to Blacks whose ancestors were slaves in America. These same Blacks, who claim that Whites owe them reparations, also claim that the ancient Egyptians were black.
    There is a problem here. The ancient Egyptians were among the biggest chattel slave-masters in history. The record of the enslavement of the Jews, by the ancient Egyptians, can be found in every version of the Holy Bible. Other people (and other races) may have also been enslaved by the Egyptians. All the Blacks who believe in the concept of reparations for the enslavement of ancestors are free, at any time, to begin making payments to the descendants of all those; whom other Blacks in history enslaved. Obviously fairness dictates that they could start, at least, by making payments to the Jews. Now that the shoe is on the other foot, will this idea still sound good to the Blacks who are clamoring for reparations?
    Slavery has been going on since man has existed. Slavery did not start in America. Everyone has ancestors who were slaves. There is plenty of slavery that is more recent than American slavery. Auschwitz makes the southern plantation look like a vacation resort.
    Let’s actually examine the Chairman Gates’ concept of reparations for the enslavement of ancestors. His contention that all White people owe all Black people is based on the concept that those who are of the SAME RACE, as the former slave masters; automatically owe money to all of those, who are of the SAME RACE as the former slaves. No notice is taken of the fact that those who allegedly owe the money were never slave masters themselves, nor of the fact that those to whom the money is allegedly owed have never themselves been slaves.
    There also seems to be a presumption that all of the slaves were black, and all of the slave-masters were white. Only a small percentage of whites, owned slaves (5% or less). In the official U.S. Census of 1830, there were 3775 free blacks who owned 12,740 black slaves. The first black slave owner was Anthony Johnson of Northampton, Virginia. His slave was John Casor.
    A landmark case in 1665 involving the Black slave owner Anthony Johnson resulted in the courts’ ruling that slaves were considered slaves for life. Thus, in 1665 all states adopted enslavement laws. It was the Black slave master, Anthony Johnson, who sued and won his case in a Virginia court that changed temporary servitude into lifetime servitude. Thus, this Black slave owner, in Virginia, established permanent slavery. If there were any validity to the theory that the descendants of slaves should be paid by the descendants of slave-masters; THEN descendants of Anthony Johnson would certainly owe the most.
    What it comes down to is this: Chairman Gates, and his reparations cohorts, are saying that a person is allegedly due money, or that a person allegedly owes money, SOLELY on the basis of his or her race.
    Now let’s put the shoe on the other foot AGAIN. Suppose that you are a Black man sleeping peacefully in your own home. Suddenly there is a knock at the door. It is the police, who inform you that you are under arrest, and that you are going to jail. Why? Because somewhere an unspecified, unidentified Black man has robbed a store.
    “But I am innocent!” you yell.
    “Yes, we know that, but you are Black, and a Black man robbed the store,
    “The policeman answers. “We have to arrest you because you are Black.”
    Now, what is the next logical thing for you to say? Will you not immediately point out that it is an injustice for you to be punished for something that you did not do? Will you not loudly protest that it is racism to blame an entire race for the actions of a few? Of course that’s what you’ll say – and of course you’ll be right.
    Why are you only, JUST NOW, thinking of that?
    How will you deal with the fact that there were slave owners who were Black or American Indian? To all the Blacks who are clamoring for reparations from Whites: Are you willing to also call for the descendants of all Blacks who sold or kept slaves to chip in too? Are you willing to hit up the descendants of today’s Egyptians for your “fair share,” and to urge them to also pay reparations to the descendants of the Jews; whom they enslaved? How do you plan to compensate the descendants of the WHITE people, who came to this continent as slaves? (The euphemism for white slavery was indentured servitude). How will you deal with the fact that large numbers of whites are the descendants of people who came here after slavery was abolished? How will you deal with the fact that large numbers of blacks are the descendants of people who came here after slavery was abolished?
    And are you willing to ask those Blacks and Arabs who still sell and keep slaves in Africa, to this day, to immediately stop this practice, to free their slaves, and to pay them, and their descendants reparations?
    The big problem with collective guilt is that it punishes the innocent. We now hear that some of the descendents of the slave traders are supporting the idea of reparations. Katrina Browne of the DeWolf family is one example. Are they offering to pay these reparations from their own family funds, or do the want someone else to pay? If there was any thought of justice in all of this, then the source of the reparations would be limited to nothing other than the assets that were inherited from slave traders and slave masters. In 1812, the DeWolfs owned more ships than the United States Navy. Would the descendents of the slave traders and slave masters volunteer to exchange their financial portfolios for the financial portfolios of the descendents of the slaves? The descendents of the slave traders and of the slave masters might learn a lot from the conversations that they could have with the descendents of the slaves, while they wait together in the food stamp and welfare offices. Would it not be simple common sense that those who benefited from slavery should be the only ones to compensate those who were injured by slavery?
    We are told that “Islam” is not responsible for terrorism.
    Why are we told that “whitey” is responsible for slavery? I’m just trying to get the rules straight on this collective guilt phenomena. It is perplexing to hear who it is; who is exclaiming about how peaceful most Muslims are. That’s surely true, just as the vast majority of whites opposed slavery.
    In all civil claims, when it is found that an injury was done, the injured party would only be entitled to be compensated exactly to the extent to what they would have had, absent the injury. In this case, that would be the standard of living of the average African. Exactly what are the damages, that resulted from being subjected to growing up in America, instead of Africa?
    Of COURSE, if it was true that there was a valid claim for reparations, due to the enslavement of ancestors, that claim would be subject to corrections for value already received (welfare, subsidized housing, medicare, medicaid, food stamps, etc. etc. etc.) Anytime that a debt is over paid a refund is given.
    For more information on reparations visit:
    If there is anyone, who is willing to accept criminal penalties,
    and civil liabilities,
    on behalf of everyone who is of their same ethnic group,
    that person is invited to comment.
    Hurry right in.
    Please form a single line.
    No pushing!

  • naomi

    FOREIGNID: 16064
    i think some of the comments made demonstrate the need for this type of programing. i don’t think films need to be oscar worthy to begin dialogue among white people insofar as the privileges they enjoy as a result of white supremacy that came about as a direct result of the slave trade. the idea that someone from europe is not culpable is retarded. slave labor created the modern world. the sugar, rum and spices enjoyed in the west was cultivated by slave labor.
    i think many people of african descent get the point, it’s time for white people to begin discussing if we want things to change.

  • Curtis V. Murphy

    FOREIGNID: 16065
    I think white folks should thank katrina dewolf because she may be a seed to their own salvation. As a member of the National coalition of Blacks for Reparations, I know white will pay because the Creator has let me know that if and when black people request and demanded it….white people will pay for it. Only the ignorant whites that are full of greed and selfishness will not see the importance of this film and the good that can come out of this. In the past I didn’t want white people to come to the realization that they must make amends because I wanted them to suffer under the terror that only the Almighty Creator can hand out. Now, I am willing to forgive white folks if they are honest about what happened and take the steps to undo the lies that they have written and taught about african people. Clean up this education system of the lies and the omission about what is true about African’s, native americans and others they have offended. Now I can say its not so much the money but I would like to have the truth printed in the text books and taught in the schools. There are things that can be done to make up for what was done in evil and wrong but it has to be with truth

  • Paula Waldowski

    FOREIGNID: 16066
    I am also descended from a slave trader, John Pleasants of Virginia. He imported both slaves and white indentured servants as part of his import business. He was converted by Quaker missionaries and upon his death, manumitted all his slaves. He was forbidden by law to do it while he was alive. When I first learned of my family’s link to the slave trade, I felt sickened and guilty. I have many close black friends and now I think, did my family own yours? Just the idea that one person could own another is appalling to me. To see it in your ancestors’ wills, when they bequeather people of color to their children, along with their household goods and animals, is a staggering experience. Will there ever be any way I can make amends for what my ancestors did? Only by striving to be a good person, to treat others justly and to teach my children tolerance and equality.

  • al barkow

    FOREIGNID: 16067
    First of all, although this is a minor matter, the narration by the maker of the film was so uninspired, so dull as to make it difficult to stay with the film. It may have nothing to do with the thrust, the true import of the subject, but you still have to add a certain “show business” element. That aside, the fact that the slaves were sold in the first place by black Africans was touched on only briefly; it was mentioned to an African historian who slipped past an honest answer by citing that slavery was part of all civilizations. True enough, but the difference here is that African themselves set the action in motion by selling off their own people for some rum and handkerchiefs. Or whatever. I recall a young black college student remarking to me once that he was surprised, and perhaps even shocked to learn that black Africans were the original source of the slaves. You needed to address this question in greater depth, and confront the African-American women who were angry and vociferous with that fact and get them to respond. I saw that was not going to happen, and quit the program midway through. I was also turned off by the reaction of many of the Dewolfe family members, who didn’t address in any depth the fact that they themselves were not complicit and, if they didn’t themselves profit from the trade of their forefathers, really should not feel any guilt. There was a kind of remorse that I don’t think was justified.
    The only truly interesting thing I gleaned from the film was the fact that Thomas Jefferson was complicit in the business. Yet another indication of his hypocritcal nature.
    Al Barkow

  • C. Gomez

    FOREIGNID: 16068
    Excellent documentary! Congratulations to Ms. Brown. As a naturalized American, I have always been shocked at the lack of historical memory that most people in this country have, coupled with the persistent racism that still surrounds us. Americans, unlike almost any other culture that I have met around the world, forget too easily and too quickly. I think this is an excellent example of how other healing processes could take place in many of the country’s communities. But it does have to include not only the African American community, but also the Native Americans peoples. All over North, Central, and South America we need to make reparations to the millions of indigenouos people that were killed, enslaved, and are still marginalized and/or exploited.

  • Gregory Wonderwheel

    FOREIGNID: 16069
    That was a very good documentry. I didn’t realize what it was when it started and it kept me interested. I find my own views to be somewhere in the spaces between what was presented here. I fele no personal guilt over the slave trade but I feel the racism that continues today (which by the way can be seen in some of the above comments). I feel the general prevailing white supremacy in our nation is more than enough to warrant significant reparations. But I doubt that would be a panacea for either European American or African Americans. The legacy of white supremacy lingers in people of all skin colors. To me it is essential to stop seeing people as “black” or “white” because that is the way the racist caste system is able to remain embedded in our national mentality even though counsciously we don’t want to continue it. People should read George Lakoff and othersabout how framing works. The framing of our metaphors using “black” and “white” (and red, brown, yellow, too), for people maintains the hidden agenda of racism just by forcing our mental framing into the cagegories created by tose who advocagted “white”supremacy. What was lacking in the film was the exploration of the question of the “white” abolitionists and the “black’ slave traders. Slavery was not just a black verses white issue. Three were people of all colors on all sides of the enslavement question.

  • Julie

    FOREIGNID: 16070
    I for one feel not ONE IOTA of “white guilt” about the slave trade. My ancestor came to America from England in the 1600s as an INDENTURED SERVANT, as did @ 2/3 of the whites who settled in America during the time of the slave trade. These were “white slaves”, who, even if they did work off their indenture to their overseer, might end up owing money for food, shelter, etc. and be intendtured forever. Their plight was not much different from the plight of black slaves. Indenture went on until the 1800s in America. That is TWO THIRDS of all white Americans alive in the 1700s. . One could argue that all of the blacks in this country at that time were slaves, but I don’t see anyone making a documentary about British indentured servants.
    am also the descendent of men who fought, and died, in the Revolutiona and the Civil War, (not to mention WWI and WWII) who fought for all of our freedom.
    My other ancestors came recently from Scandinavia, which did not have a slave trade. If you want to shed a tear, watch “The Immigrants” with Liv Ullman.
    For the other 1/3 of descendents of the colonies that owned land and owned slaves, wallow in your guilt. You want to make reparations? You can make reprations to me, and all of the other descendents of the Irish, Scottish, English and German indentured servants in early American history.

  • Ruth

    FOREIGNID: 16071
    I am 1/16th Choctaw. My initial response to this program was to focus on the way indigenous peoples of this continent were treated long before slaves were imported, sold, and abused. I do not minimize the inhumanity of that behavior. When I realized that the song, “Strange Fruit” referred to blacks murdered by hanging, I was horrified. Hatred is hatred. It doesn’t matter if it makes a profit, eliminates your enemy, strengthens your position or inflames the passions of war. Churches have long taught that God cursed blacks, and did not oppose this vile behavior. As a result, I would not seek a church’s blessing to assuage my suffering or grief involved with slavery. I think churches have enough to answer for.
    My Great Grandmother was full-blood Choctaw. Everyone “knew” that Native Americans were unclean savages and that Genesis said that God had cursed blacks. Abusing either was considered “acceptable” by whites.
    Accurate education is essential for ALL. We know Columbus did not discover America. How could this be when Native Americans were living here when the first white men arrived? We cannot change the past. The present still tortures us as humans. We read of the violence that occured in Rwanda. In 100 days, over 800,000 Tutsis were slaughtered. This was black on black violence. There is tribal, religious, and political fighting going on all around the world today. How can the U.S. make a difference everywhere when it cannot handle its own affairs?
    My Grandfather never owned land. He farmed rented land his entire life. My Grandmother had a 2nd grade education. He lived a hard working, sweat of his brow, meaningful life that ended when he was plowing a wheat field at 82 and had a heart attack on the tractor. He never said, “My people were mistreated,” or, “The government owes me land.” I don’t think it ever crossed his mind.
    I have a friend who could not get in college due to affirmative action. He’s Italian. They were looking for a certain number of blacks. He is still prejudiced today. He believes he was robbed of his chance to be a success. I’m not sure I agree, but he will die believing that.
    We sit silently while major corporations ship U.S. jobs overseas. If this continues, no one – black or white – will be able to find work. Gas prices keep rising and the housing market slumps. We are in a recession and no one is paying attention. We shop to save money and we support slavery in 3rd world countries. Now we have to worry about the toys we buy for our children because there are no labor or safety laws in those countries. This is why major U.S. corporations move their companies off shore. Why do we continue to support them like sheep being led to slaughter? I can only lead to our own demise – black or white!
    Slavery has not ended. It has switched locations. It is not time to apologize for slavery. It is not time to apologize for murdering or lying to Native Americans while the U.S. government stole their land. I believe there should be some reparation, but I wouldn’t know where to begin. I do know that it is time to repair the structure that we all live in. If viable jobs are available, housing is affordable and education and health services can be had by all, and if the U.S. budget is balanced and the U.S. economy is strong, everyone will benefit – black and white.
    There are some who were raised racist and who will die racist. Will you apologize for them, too? You can’t deposit an apology in a bank and it won’t feed children or heat a home. Fix the real problems. Give everyone an equal opportunity. Educate everyone who wants an education. Treat everyone with dignity and respect. Learn to understand the differences between all cultures. Think globally, but act locally. By doing so in our day-to-day life, I believe we all can make a difference.

  • onaje

    FOREIGNID: 16072
    I applaude Katrina Browne and her family for having the courage and moral integrity to grapple with the issue of slavery. The reality is that they have benefited from the slave trade. If not whollly economically, at least psychologically; because growing up black in the U.S means shedding and beating back the profound sense of unworthiness and exclusion from mainstream American society. Nonetheless as a AA, my heart is open wide to forgiveness.

  • Anthony Swint

    FOREIGNID: 16073
    I really appreciate this documentary on this subject of slavery.As a Black Man
    in so-called Freedom land.I ‘m still angry at many WHITES that don’t seem that this old history of rich slave trade.With BLACKS, we sould get over it.No one tell the JEWS “to get over it”.And many of them still don’t surrounded themselves with other WHITES in America.But,many blacks have hugged the pale american..I from Detroit.I have move to Arizona[2.5 yrs. ago].And have been called the N-word by Whites and Spanish Americans..But,I kept 3 great people in mind Jackie Robinson,M.L.King,Malcomn X,and the Greatest Man, Jesus Christ..And Ms.Juanita Brown,Do you have a Boyfriend or are you Married?….LOL…UR BEAUTIFUL

  • rodney holland

    FOREIGNID: 16074
    I have many issues with the film. She is correct that “we didn’t do It”. If someone committed murder eight generations ago should their ancestors go to prison today? That would be ridiculous. I have no aversion to discussing the issue. We can talk about it all day. My family came to this country in the early 1900s. My family was not here to participate. But, the film suggests I should feel guilty due to being White. I am VERY, VERY proud to be White. In the scene at the church the comment is made that “white” people are not whole due to the issues discussed. My family and what I have accomplished in life makes me whole. I am a parent of nine children. This late in life I am about to graduate college. I will be the first in my family to do so. If the film maker had paid her own way through school, and worked to supply for her family, she would feel differently. I have had no special priviledge. Any person of any color could accomplish what I have. Anyone can work hard. Many of the decendants of the slaves are doing far better than most White people. There are no professional basketball players in Africa. 50 cent would not be “50 cent” in Afrika. Those people are a product of our history. Also, it did not go unnoticed at the beginning of the comments section White was not capitalized, but black was.

  • Kara

    FOREIGNID: 16075
    Thank you Katrina and Family for opening this discussion from your point-of-view. I have not read much on the topic of reparations, but my gut reaction to general idea has always been that no amount of monetary reparations could EVER atone for slavery. I have read a few of the posts and emotions and opinions on the topic and on the film are varied and strong.
    People have been commiting atrocities against other people for ages.
    One thing that I think can be difficult for us to grasp (about the African Slave Trade) is the lasting multi-generational impact of being CUT OFF from your ancestry. One of my ideas of reparations is to offer those descedents of slaves who are interested access and assistance in tracing their roots back as far as possible, similarly to the way Henry Louis Gates, Jr did in the African American Lives series. Another idea is to take it to the next level and subsidize pilgrimages to west African slave ports for descendents (Cost prohibitive I am sure – but an idea)
    Since viewing the film, I think that a huge step toward ‘making things right’ is talking honestly with each other – not just about slavery – but other things that divide us – so that we can really understand each other.
    Thank you for sharing your journey and for inviting us to participate in the “next step”.

  • Cam J

    FOREIGNID: 16076
    For all those saying, “my ancestors weren’t slave traders “or “immigrated after the slave trade” so I’m not responsible, the answer is this. Surely you are not responsible, but you benefit just by being white. Long after slavery was over there existed many opportunities that whites could take advantage of that blacks simply could not just because they were black, for example in the Great Depression. This gave your family a leg up whether you like it or not.
    If a the son of a bank robber was living the highlife with expensive houses, cars, wealth and a good education wouldn’t we think that’s wrong? Why should the son benefit off of stolen money? Wouldn’t we want that money to be distributed back to the people? What’s stolen is stolen.
    I think as a Black person the best reparation that the United States can give is to improve the education systems of the black community. More money should be earmarked for smaller schools, quality curriculums and paying teachers the salary that they are worth so that they can do their job and improve education thus improving lives.

  • N. White

    FOREIGNID: 16077
    I was very impressed with the DeWolfs that chose to participate in the discussion. It must not have been easy to realize how involved their ancestors were in the slave trade.
    It’s sad that the family members couldn’t go into the old ancestoral home during filming.It was so symbolic of how we look at and think about slavery in our country. We want to put our heads in the sand and deny its existence or get angry with people who bring it up in discussion or justify it by giving it some normalcy – “Slavery is.just a part of history”. That does not make it right.
    I am past angry about the issue of slavery. Now I am dealing with a type of sadness about the whole situtation. It is time for an apology from our federal government and an honest discussion about slavery and all of its effects. Yes its effects. Slavery did not stop with the Emancipation Proclamation. It is hard to heal when your feelings are not validated and quickly dismissed by society.
    I hope this documentary opens up the lines of communication for those who are interested in healing our nation. I know I am. Are you?
    P.S. I don’t know who was singing but, the song is also sung by U2.

  • dora holland

    FOREIGNID: 16078
    People are forgetting that the word slave comes from the slavic people. So many were taken into slavery that they bagan to be called slaves. what about repaying those people for what happened to them hundreds of years ago.

  • R.Hageman

    FOREIGNID: 16079
    With the deepest respect for Katrina Brownes honesty,courage and humanity, I would like to offer my thanks for a remarkable film. Being of Dutch decent (as I assume the de Wolfs must have been) I too must in some way be guilty for these unspeakable crimes.
    So long as we ourselves remain the slaves of power and greed in an effort to fuel our ascention towards a largely fictitious illusion of self importance, we shall remain a small and silly people.

  • deon

    FOREIGNID: 16080
    “…Who can separate his faith from his actions, or his belief from his occupations?
    Who can spread his hours before him, saying, “This for God and this for myself; This for my soul, and this other for my body?”
    All your hours are wings that beat through space from self to self.
    He who wears his morality but as his best garment were better naked…”
    Oh wow Katrina. You have done something amazing and clearly ARE an amazing soul. My family has only seen things from the Black side of things, and to see this rare soul-bearing and your converting the idea of “guillt” to “grief” so people can act together in love – that was DEEP and sacred.
    I’m smilnig at the thought of you in seminary realizing the whole world is church to an awake soul.
    “…Your daily life is your temple and your religion.
    Whenever you enter into it take with you your all…”
    Some of the comments here surprise me. But even those to whom this is so foreign, threatening, or incomprehensible – perhaps your work will plant even in them
    as a seed.
    One plants. Another waters.
    I feel like you are fulfililng a destiny.

  • Winston Johnson

    FOREIGNID: 16081
    I sent a really long and complimentary post and briefly there was a “recent comments” quote from it. What happened. I typed for 45 minutes!!!!


    FOREIGNID: 16082
    Thank you so much, Katrina, for doing such a outstanding job by making TRACES OF THE TRADE. You have made a huge contribution to the national conversation that is only beginning.
    Yes, we all need to come together, move forward together. The challenges ahead are so great, such as we have never faced throughout our history as a nation. Our humanity and our civic stewardship are being called upon as never before.
    I would like to draw your attention, and all who see this, to Douglas Blackmon’s historic book, SLAVERY BY ANOTHER NAME. Here is what I wrote on Amazon:
    “In what may well be one of the most important works in non-fiction to emerge in the 21st Century, investigative journalist, Douglas Blackmon, has authored a compelling and compassionate examination of slavery’s evolution, practice and influence reaching far into the 20th Century. Blackmon’s, Slavery by Another Name, is certainly a prizeworthy study by a writer whose acumen for the highest in journalistic standards combined with an unusual gift for storytelling makes this historic work both enlightening and inspiring.
    As an African American (bi-racial Black/White) I can attest to the facts and stories Mr. Blackmon presents, as told to me by my father who only upon his deathbed, felt safe enough to reveal. Growing up in Jasper Texas in the 1920′s, he was picking cotton at age 7 and driving tractors at age 9. The atmosphere for Blacks was a living holocaust, where my father witnessed the lynching of his boyhood friend at age 13, where oppression was a daily experience for Blacks; even in the most simple terms of human interaction, where making eye-contact when addressing Whites was considered untenable and subject to harsh retribution.
    Indeed, Mr. Blackmon goes far beyond these traditional understandings of racial practices, and brings new, deeper knowledge of how slavery had merely been retooled to accommodate the unforeseen realities of emancipation, allowing it to flourish for many more decades in what Blackmon calls the “Age of Neoslavery”.
    Resulting from the recent history-making speech on race by Presidential hopeful, Illinois Senator Barack Obama, there is huge public interest in reaching a more comprehensive understanding of race relations in our nation. The fact is, public response to Sen. Obama’s speech has uncapped an overwhelming outpouring of public interest, writings, and dialogue.
    Mr. Blackmon had a similar experience back in 2001, when his article appeared in the Wall Street Journal on how U.S. Steel Corp. relied on the forced labor of Blacks. This too received massive public response expressing appreciation and sincere interest to learn more. Hence, after 7 years of exhaustive research and interviews, Slavery by Another Name arrives at a time our nation, facing a historic general election, is contemplating race as never before. And Mr. Blackmon’s pioneering work is helping us to break new ground toward a path of greater insight and reconciliation.”
    TRACES OF THE TRADE is no less significant and I strongly urge all to promote it to others as much as possible.
    Thank you again, Katrina, for such an outstanding and valuable gift.

  • Jennifer and Ryan Maroney

    FOREIGNID: 16083
    My husband and I just watched the show, and we both are from Northwest Montana. We are just beginning to see our first few black families move here, and it’s really …Interesting-invigorating-strangely frightening-BECAUSE we have never been around African-American folks. Frankly, we have no known predjudices, but there’s a tension we can’t understand. We figure it’s from previous racial B.S. we’ve been raised with. Jen

  • Robert Hill

    FOREIGNID: 16084
    Katrina Brown, & Family,
    What a wonderful gift you have given to America in the beginning of the 21century. This documentary should be in every libary & community center in America, as a model for dealing with one of the most intractable issues in America, Slavery, & Racism.
    The film is full of honesty, courage, & commitment concerning a deep wound in the soul ofAmerica, that must be healed in order for America to truly ,live up to her greatness !
    This film gives me much HOPE, that we as a nation are up to the challange !

  • Linda Anderson

    FOREIGNID: 16085
    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.


    FOREIGNID: 16086
    An important contribution was made by Katrina and her 9 relatives who took their dark history and exposed it to the light for all the world to see. For them and for us who saw the film, it is redemptive,bold and courageius in telling the truth of the disenfranchisement of African Americans at the hands of her family and the beginiing of an honest dialogue about how to heal and take responsibility for the sins of the father. Thank you for this all too important contribution and getting folks to “look” and not deny the reality of the founding of America: Only then will the healing begin!

  • Anton Grambihler

    FOREIGNID: 16087
    Everyone must be treated the same under International Law, National Laws, and Local Laws, NO EXCEPTIONS!
    The United States will not change until it Treats all People in the Middle East the same.
    When Iraq invaded Kuwait, the United States put together a coalition to force Iraq out of Kuwait.
    When Iran complains about the illegal Israeli invasion and illegal occupation of Palestine, the United States talks about illegally invading Iran, instead of putting together a coalition to force Israel out of Palestine.

  • Grady Henry

    FOREIGNID: 16088
    I thought that what you did was a very brave and admirable thing, and I really do have to commend you on it. As a white person, myself, who was born and raised in the South, in the deep South, ironically in the “Bible Belt”, the sad fact of the matter is that racism is still very much alive in the Deep South “Bible Belt”. My father is still very much a racist, he even has an ink portrait of Jefferson Davis on the wall of his law office, and about half of his clientel are African-American. The sad fact of the matter is that many whites feel very much removed from historical slavery and thus feel very much unapologetic for it.

  • Andrea Wuenschel

    FOREIGNID: 16089
    I came across this documentary on TV tonight and was completely drawn in–
    I found the comment in the documentary about being complicit in horrible things happening “out of sight, out of mind” to be particularly poignant–People were complicit in the slave trade even if not actively involved, and they benefited from the results and goods from that trade, not only back then, but now too. And even now we are complicit in other horrors as well when we buy products made by people grueling in sweat shops, as well as our intentional and unintentional continuation of both slight and great social inequalities handed down from generation to generation in American society. Even though my ancestors had no direct connection to the slave trade and slavery, as a white American I still feel guilt and horror and responsible for relatives’ and ancestors’ and my own complicit behavior, unintentional or not, and acknowledging that is a first step toward communication and facing reality.
    * * *
    Comparing slavery and the slave trade to the Holocaust (as one women did at the church near the end of the documentary) is just the beginning:
    Why is the slavery of Africans and mass killings of Jews not also compared to the destruction of Native American peoples and the horrible treatment and internment of the Japanese in WWII, not to mention many other less well-publicized genocides and atrocities all over the world?!?
    Why are all of these incidents taught so separately, when they are all connected?!? The history books all portray these events as something that has happened back in the past, contained in their respective countries–when these events are still very much here with us today, the echoes resounding loudly all around us, and everyone is walking around deaf–or with cotton stuffed in their ears.
    Each of these atrocities is “an elephant in the room” –making up a whole lumbering herd that everyone in American society and beyond blithely ignores on a daily basis. These elephants need to become visible and be accepted for what they are today, and not just what they were back then.

  • Ron Paquette

    FOREIGNID: 16090
    When I stare out from this skull that contains my brain, I do not see myself as an appearance in any form or as a particular racial color. The social stigmas etched within my memories are only silent with the realization; we are simply platforms of observation. What we chose to do with our lives-the choices that inspire action, is directly related to the manner we opt to view the world. Our daily responses create a reality that surrounds our being and establishes co-creations with all in our presents. Every daily moment we are interpreting and generating information that tell the world and ourselves what we are as a person.
    Reparations and apologies change nothing but a minor moment’s shift in energy. However, an internal shift in attitude creates the power to make the world a better place. Understanding the negative nature of judgment and discovering the power acceptance gives fulfillment to existence and peace to the soul. The simple act of approaching another without preconceived notions dramatically alters the reality of the situation. Understand yourself and you understand the world.
    Centuries ago a great sage once said, “I make no apologies, I make change.”

  • Madeline

    FOREIGNID: 16091
    I’m so glad I watched this.. Though I found the reactions of the family frustrating and even maddening at times, it was very moving when they finally opened up, thankfully. It was truly a journey in every sense, a gradual awakening, not only the family but for myself the viewer.
    I wish I had had the awareness and courage to have discussed race with my former close black friends. Unfortunatley it wouldn’t have been very productive on my part because my prejudices were buried so deep. At least now I have the good sense to be appalled and then work through them when they emerge, We need to make discussion of race and slavery a national priority. Learning about it in high school was traumatic and overwhelming for me, as it must be for other students. That would be a good place to start. And I need to figure out how to do my part. Katrina Brown is certainly doing her share.

  • Terry

    FOREIGNID: 16092
    Greetings Katrina,
    I commend you and your family members that had the courage to have an open dialogue on your family’s involvment in the slave trade.
    There were many imnportant messages contained in the documentary that hit home for me but the one statement I wholeheartedly agree it the statement I believe you made about making all of this history (on slavery) available.
    For the record I research the history and genealogy of slavery among the so called Five Civilized Tribes of Southeastern Indians also known as Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek and Seminole.
    The issues you bring up in your film are quite similar to the issues now being fought in these tribes with special attention on the Cherokee Nation with member of the Congressional Black Congress sponsoring legislation to have issues of citizenship resolved to the descendants of the enslaved people of African ancestry of the Cherokee tribe as a result of Treaties ratified in 1866.
    The fact that Native Americans have been complicit in enslavement of Africans is another one of those litle known stories of slavery in North America that gets little to no attention but the issues of “reparation and reconcilliation” are just as important in the five tribes as they are for the United States which was also complicit in the institution.
    I say all of this to illustrate that your story though compelling is only a small part of the story of slavery and as you develop strategies to deal with the issue as it pertains to your family, there are other stories that should be included in the discussion so that a fuller picture of this horrible period in our country’s history should be fully explored, discussed, written about and other films developed to expose the country to a history that does not get discussed which inhibits our ability to heal as a nation.
    I certainly would like to hear more about what you and your family will be doing to promote dialogue on this issue so that if there are strategies I can utilize in my efforts to bring the history of enslavement of Africans among the five tribes to public view.
    Again, you are to be commended for bringing this story to light. It is efforts like yours that may possibly help others open up their family’s records that can help the descendants of those enslaved to begin healing in their family because of the inability to connect to our ancestors as you have been able to understand your genealogical history.

  • Bill

    FOREIGNID: 16093
    A national apology acknowledging the wrongs of slaves is to state that the exploitation of another human for economic purposes is unacceptable. Today the term globalization is a convenient means of distancing the US consumer from the ongoing economic abuses in which we all participate and derive some benefit if even unwittingly. To apologize for the wrongs of slavery past is to put in question the current economic system that is built on low cost labor: a system where profit is put before humanity. Given the powerful interests that govern the global economic system, it is improbable and regrettable that an economic system built on respect; dignity and personal freedom for all individuals can be put into practice. Humanity has progressed very little, if at all since the dawn of “civilization.” We remain a primitive people.

  • Terry

    FOREIGNID: 16094
    I just had to respond to all of those who have made comments regarding Native Americans, one, as if it is a monolithic community and of one “pure race of people.”
    I was especially moved by the comments of I believe ruth, the 1/16th Choctaw. Apparently Ruth is not familiar with her own history of enslavement of people of African and African-Choctaw ancestry.
    Indeed, the history of enslaving people of African descent is not something that “whites” had a monopoly on. If for no other reason, this film should be considered a first step to enlightenment for the majority of people in the United States, including so called Native Americans.
    I have always found it interesting that people identify with “native americns” and their oppression but seem to lump all “native americans” into one boat. At the same time the history of enslavement of Africans among the so called Five Civilized Tribes is not getting the exposure it deserves and leaves many in the “native american” community and the Five Slave Holding Tribes ignorant of their own complicity in slave trading and oppression.
    This is why this film is important for the beginnings of a discussion of slavery, oppression and I might add Jim Crow as the direct policies of the nited States and the Five Slave Holding Tribes that contributed to the margianlization, oppression and economic tragedy that is felt by those of African descent.
    There is much to discuss about this subject and with some of the comments of the posters it is clear we have a long way to go to beginning the healing process over this issue. The “native american” community seems intent on lobbying for their “reparations” due to their status in america, but they don’t have the same sense of purpose for those among them that have oppressed, marginalized enslaved Africans among them. For more information on this subject go to the website below:

  • Joanne Spencer

    FOREIGNID: 16095
    I thought the documentary was very good. In the last two years, I’ve only met a handful of caucasians (mostly historians, preservationists, and a few educators) who have no problem with candidly discussing the history of slavery in this country. It needs to be addressed. Our US history needs to be all-inclusive. Only then will people began to understand each other and realize why feelings and emotions run so deeply. When people know and own where they come, they can make wise decisions as to where they are going. The film needs to be shown in schools and discussed in the classroom.

  • http://none Louis Paul Toscano

    FOREIGNID: 16096
    The film was the usual good quality that I expect from PBS. However, my impression is that the DeWolf family seems to victimize themselves over the issue. You cannot characterize the family, their population, or for that matter, even the white Southerners in those states that wanted to keep slavery during the Civil War. Many people owned slaves, but did not mistreat them, even though the institution was wrong. The Civil War was an economic war, and slaves were part of that economy. If one reads Mark Twain’s writings, it was the Northerners who moved to the South who were the most likely to mistreat the slaves. Maybe the DeWolf family was part of this economy, but nothing in the family, past or present, characterized them as abusive.

  • Shaun

    FOREIGNID: 16097
    If Black Americans are due “reparations” from White Americans, why are they not due reparations from European’s who started the Black-White slave trade? And why are they not due reparations from the Black Africans who enslaved them and sold them to Whites. And why are the descendants of the slaves held by Egyptian, Persian, Greek, Roman, Chinese, Russian, Empires as well as India not due reparations. And we have not even gone beyond the injustice of slavery, to the other injustices that have always been with mankind.
    Truth and Reconciliation commission’s would be a wonderful idea, if the slave owners and slaves could be brought together. The idea that I, the descendant of poverty stricken immigrants, driven from there homes with no alternative but to indenture themselves to have a chance to survive, who arrived in the US in the 1880′s owe something to the descendants of slaves is far fetched.
    Injustice has been with man since the beginning. If we try to undo that injustice, it is an endless task. Most of us are the descendants of “victims of injustice”.

  • Yves Bernier

    FOREIGNID: 16098
    I have been looking forward for some time to seeing this documentary and I am not disappointed. The descendants of the DeWolfe traders who participated in the documentary are to be commended for their courage and convictions. This unfortunate part of history will be fully understood and acknowledged only after a truly sincere and complete apology from the highest levels of the government is delivered. The Canadian government recently gave such an apology to the canadian natives for its’ part in the history of the abuse suffered by native children at the hands of church and government organizations. The path is now cleared for true reconciliation and compensation. The canadian apology could serve as a blueprint for such a move in the U.S. Acknowledging the truth about the injustice of slavery will set everyone free to make a better world.

  • Paul Lemoine

    FOREIGNID: 16099
    I think that the key question was asked by a young student in Ghana. He asked if the slave trade had made the white people feel superior to the black people. An honest answer to this question is essential if the whites and blacks are ever going to come to terms with the issue of race in America.

  • Larry Lind

    FOREIGNID: 16100
    I watched this documentary and was intrigued. It was a shameful part of US history, but I am offended by blacks and the De Wolf family who believe “white” people should sit down and dialogue with blacks and ask for forgiveness and make it right (reparations) with descendants of blacks. The collective white guilt does not affect me. Should ALL white people in the United States feel guilt and shame about slavery? Should the Irish and German who came to America in the US in the late 1800’s feel guilt, should the scores of Polish, Italians, Germans who came to the US in the early 1900’s feel shame and guilt? Should the Eastern European peoples coming to the US recently feel this collective shame? Why should the descendants of non slave owning, immigrants feel shame? Why should they pay reparations? Yes, the whites came voluntarily and the blacks came in the bottom of ships with chains and whips on their backs.
    Yes, slavery Was and Is a terrible thing that still happens today, but as a descendant of a non-slave owning family I do not feel shame and remorse or seek to apologize for slavery. Get over it.
    If the DeWolf and other descendants of slave owners want to apologize for their ancestors I say go for it, but don’t apologize for me and I offer no apology to the descendants of slaves.

  • Marcy Webb

    FOREIGNID: 16101
    It amazes me that there are comments by Whites who provide the typical knee-jerk response to such topics as those raised in the film, i.e. “I’m not a racist”, and “My family didn’t own slaves”. How naive and ignorant. What many Whites fundamentally don’t understand is that the issue is the legacy of slavery, and how that legacy has provided Whites with the privilege they have today, and it’s about the various forms of institutional racism that permeate our society, courtesy of slavery. I don’t want any White person’s money, and, quite frankly don’t want or need his/her apology for slavery. What I do want is for Whites to raise their level of awareness regarding the legacy of slavery and how it has benefitted them. It matters not whether your ancestors have been in the United States since its creation, or whether you just recently arrived. As a White person, whether newly-arrived or established, he/she benefits from privilege.

  • James

    FOREIGNID: 16102
    I find it interesting that many black Americans I know are being hypocritical.
    On 1 hand they are very angry for what happened to their ancestors and how it affects them to this day (as they should).
    But on the other hand, they knowingly (just like all of us) participate in modern day evils, like buying clothes or a pair of shoes for $100 that was made by slaves (yes, they are slaves whether you like it or not) in Asia.
    They get mad at “look what happened to MY grandparents” but shine the light on modern day evils that we are participating in, and they look away.

  • Gregory Wonderwheel

    FOREIGNID: 16103
    By the number of comments denying the problem it is eye-opening to me to see how many racists watch PBS. So I’m speaking to you people like Julie, Al, Randolph, and others who are whining about this program. If you don’t feel a “personal’ guilt then I can understand that, I don’t either. But if you don’t feel a guilt for participating in a society that is still racist and still very largely built on and keeping up “white” supremacy, then you have your head in the sand. Just look at the US Senate. There have only been 5 Senators with African ancestry in the entire history of the Senate, only 3 since 1900. A fiction of “white” was created in order to create a social club called “white supremacy.” While you may not have had ancestors who were slave traders or salve owners (and you may be in denial about this too), you are living in a society that is imbued with white supremacy. Until you have removed that white supremacy from your own consciousness and from US society then you are guilty, not for the past but for the present.
    Reparations are not for the past that is no longer, but for the past that still lives in the present.
    The everyone who wants to do something, including the people African ancestry. The single most important thing you can do is to stop thinking of your self as “black” or “white.” Anyone who is proud of being white or black is only keeping alive the mental fiction that was created by the social club of white supremacy. Every person who identifies themselves with a color-coded label is keeping the system and mental framing of white supremacy alive in their own consciousness. Even when it becomes black pride, it is still a category of thought created by white supremacy because it is using skin color as the frame.
    Ancestral pride such as Irish pride, Lakota Pride, Chinese pride, Ghanian pride, are at least one step removed rom the color-coding of the caste system, even though they still are a form self-identity by tribal nationalism that almost inevitably leads to social comparison, competition, and conflict.
    Differentiation is a necessary component of consciousness, without it we wouldn’t have consciousness at all, so social and ethnic differentiation can provide a rich tapestry of human experience. But if we believe too literally and identify too strongly with our ancestry, that will only lead to causing pain and harm in the name of our ancestry.
    The basic component of all social conflict is the us-them divide and the natural tendency to associate us with “good” and “them” with bad. If we believe in the “white” and “black” framework then we will inevitably call one “good” and the other “bad” even if it is subconscious. The studies that were in the landmark Brown vs. School Board case (replicated even today) showed that children in our white supremacist society called “white” dolls good and “black” dolls even when they called themselves “black.” It is a definite improvement if kids who are taught to call themselves “black” can learn to call themselves “good” because everyone should have a basic felling of their own goodness. But if the “white” and “black” categories are maintained, then the “blacks” who call themselves “good” with inevitably call “white” people “bad.” In other words, they will exchange white supremacy for a feeling of black supremacy. This is the way consciousness works when categories become polarized in the “us-them” oppositions.
    The only way out that I see is for each of us to come to an understanding of our own innate goodness as a human being and a living consciousness that does not rest on any category of self-identification such as color. Identifications such as ancestry can add to the enjoyment of diversity, but they too can’t be the basis of our feeling of self worth if we are to be able to enjoy our diversity without it becoming a new source of conflict. As I note in some of the comments, even when we self-identify with an ancestry and not a color, we become ancestry supremacists, such as taking pride in being Irish and harboring the secret feeling of being better than others because “I’m Irish” (or “I’m African” or “I’m Native American”)
    The balance we all have to find is how to feel good about ourselves without turning that into feeling better than others. .

  • Henry P

    FOREIGNID: 16104
    Reconciliation is possible when the wrong was committed by ourselves or those we have known – parents, grandparents. Thus, the efforts that have been made in Germany and in South Africa. The racial divide in the U.S. is a broad social problem, not a matter of individual or family introspection. The War on Poverty of the Johnson Administration was an attempt to help. My family was in Europe when slaves and slave-owners built this great country on land that was available to them because of ethnic cleansing and genocide. The early exploration of the New World may have been funded with assets confiscated from Jews when they were expelled from Spain. Our effort to do what is right today cannot be shaped by brooding about past sins.

  • James Allen

    FOREIGNID: 16105
    Rachel Cohen commented (near the top) “Why did my tax dollars go to pay for this exercise in group therapy for the filmmaker and her relatives?”
    It’s funny how it all comes down to money for some people. That’s all some people think about. Rachel, I am GLAD my tax dollars went to this. What better family to go thru this than the family of the biggest slave traders in US history.
    Also, think about what this is doing. This is setting the example for the nation on how to work through this difficult conversation, and to show that it is normal for us to struggle through it.
    Now, if they took our dollars and never filmed it or showed it on TV, then yes, I would question the use of my tax dollars. By doing this with tax money, they NEEDED to get this on national TV.
    Sounds like you might be a slave in a sense, to money as your master. We can’t filter every single thing in life and it’s value based on how it impacts our wallets. Sometimes we need to think bigger than the color green.

  • William Svab

    FOREIGNID: 16106
    I’m an 80 year old from East European parents who came to Canada a hundred years ago to escape the fuedal system in Hungary. They were given land occupied by our aboriginal Indians. Should I feel guilty? NO! We cannot reverse history. Should I be concerned? Yes! I must live so as to bring justice into every aspect of our life for all living today. If we need to apologize, where do we draw the line?
    Katrina played the ‘religious ‘card. Should the descendents of Abraham apologize and to who? Should the Israelites apologize to the Amorites, Cannanites and others for taking their land after the Exodus? Should the Babylonians apologize to the Jews? Should the Romans apologize for how they treated the Jews, the Anglo Saxons, the Gaulls and others? Should my own people, the Ugrics apologize to the inhabitants of Hungary and Finland, whoever they were for displacing and assimilating them? And what about the Picts, and Scots and Angols and Dutch snd Friesans in England? Who apologizes to who? etc. etc. Life goes on. Looking at the past through 21st century glasses gives a distorted image. I also ask anyone, whether black or yellow or brown or white, who today harbour a grievance against the ‘white atrocities’ if those atrocities had never occured, where would they be today? That is would they prefer that their ancestors had been left in Hungary, or China or Africa or whereever and would they prefer that the benefits of the European culture had not been brought to them?
    The scene in the dining room was most telling about Katrina and her family. The wasteful, snobby discussion about which University to attend, (I have a Baccalaureate in Mechanical Engineering from The University of Saskatchewan,) reminded me of an incident in the book by Thomas Merton,” I Choose Silence” where there is a similar discussion to the dining room scene about Columbia vs other Universities iuntil finally a wise member of the group speaks up to remind his comrads that the University one goes to pales in importance to the privilege of going to at least one.
    Last point: I recall that Jesus said not a word about Roman apologies but he said a great deal about about peace and love, including your enemy.

  • James

    FOREIGNID: 16107
    Having said all that, as a white person, I am about to say something that a lot a black people will not like.
    In 2008, I don’t think that the legacy and the benefits of slave business really “help” us whites anymore. The “benefits”, financial/perks/ whatever, have faded over time.
    There may be a few rich families that still benefit from initial stock holdings of companies that were built on slave labor 150-200-250 years ago. But most people I know today, white AND black, either fail or succeed in life based on their own hard work and family enviornments they grew up in.
    If you take an inner city white kid and an inner city black kid, both from equal family status/classes/net worth, and if both kids make the same decisions (amount of work in school, community, and first jobs), both have an equal chance today. The white kid will not have a better shot, unless he lives in the south or Appalachia.
    50, 40 even 30 years ago, the white kid would have an advantage. But in 2008, I guarantee you I didn’t benefit at all from wealth or priveledge that came from slave labor.
    It’s a different story regarding native americans, but that’s a whole different conversation.
    Any mistreatment of black Americans today is a result of racism, not the legacy of the slavery business. Racism is a human problem ALL societies struggle with, and it would be here in the USA even if slavery never happened, and if blacks just moved here on their own will.

  • Cynthia W

    FOREIGNID: 16108
    This program was very enlightening. I really had no idea that New England was so completely immersed in slave trade. And for sure, I will never see a stone wall the same way again. I appreciate that some DeWolffe family members were willing to make their journey a public one. It was beneficial to see their minds shift and grow during the program and to begin to acknowledge the enormous consequences.
    And thanks to Bill Moyers for previewing the show. I might not have seen it without his encouragement.

  • Lea L. Soto

    FOREIGNID: 16109
    I thought the film brought back a lot of information from a past history that never begins healing because of so many people like Ms. Browne bringing up the past. I do believe that we should never forget history, but I also believe that we must learn to stop dwelling in the past, the past can stir up a lot of bad emotions that were not even there. They spoke of Black people being angry well so are a lot of Hispanics who are portrade as immigrants by whites. The film spoke of asking for forgiveness, but it takes more than just saying I am sorry. ACTIONS SPEAK LOUDER THAN WORDS! There are many white children now who are learning to interact with Black children, Hispanics and Asian (people). Don’t put the burden on these children of something other white people are feeling guilty about. I believe that Katrina and white people that feel like Katrina should stop dwelling in the past. I am not saying to forget because we will never forget what happen to the Jews, how bad Puerto Ricans were treated, the land that was taken from Mexican people, how Asian people continue to be mistreated at times, how gays are not given there rights to live free, how women fought for there rights to work and still are being mistreated because it is said that we can not do “a man’s job” What about all of this. It is not just black people suffering the whole world is suffering. White people are not the only people who have treated people bad, every race in this world has treated another race bad. I seen even the same race treat there own race bad. I have heard of the same race killing there own race. Katrina and all of your supporters we have to be open minded this change does not start with an apology from white people. It begins with ACTIONS. I am a hispanic woman, married to a great man and I believe that if we all learn to except each other and work together our world would be a better place.

  • Michael Cindrich

    FOREIGNID: 16110
    I first found out about the program on Bill Moyers’ Journal. I knew it was going to be provoking, but didn’t realize how much until after I watched it. I feel Katrina did a very courageous thing by making this film. By the time the group was in Cuba, I found myself weeping. Not only for the millions of Africans, but also for the pain and shame of these courageous members of the De Wolf family. I don’t know that I could have been as brave if I was in their place. What came from their experience was awe-inspiring. Not just an idea of reparation, but also the commencing of a dialogue not only between black and white, but between white and white.
    One of the African-American woman stated that the slave trade was their holocost. It made me ask myself the question did the later generations of Germans go through the same process of reconcile for their country’s responsibility of the Jewish holocost?
    I just want to thank Katrina for bringing such an important topic to light. I know there will be many who won’t want to hear this story, just as she said that many members of the De Wolf family didn’t respond when she ask them to participate. Katrina, you have no longer any reason to be ashamed.

  • Joey

    FOREIGNID: 16111
    As a history educator, I was most engaged in the piece for it’s historical value. That is, the fact that New England was much more complicit in the slave trade than most textbooks acknowledge. As to the “group therapy” and “woe is me I was born into wealth and inherited it from the slave trade”….
    hogwash! I mean most Americans are descendants, should we really trace our roots, of something evil. Perhaps slave owners, perhaps military who mistreated native Americans, perhaps just bigots. Move on ! As individuals I believe what is vastly more important than “making restitution” (as if we even can !) to the African American, is to befriend African Americans. Developing friendships with African Americans has helped me learn vastly more about them as a race than can a textbook or a trip to Ghana to discover my longlost ancestral link. I’m all for tracing heritage. I have traced my own to both Ireland and England. But we will always find things we may not like. So I think the real benefit is in knowing oneself, not in hoping to bridge some gap that can’t be bridged.
    In effect, I just don’t think there really are concrete reparations that can be had here. I believe both sides of this coin, white americans as well as african americans, can make steps towards reconciliation, vastly more important in my mind. We can do this by getting to know our fellow brothers and sisters.

  • t peoples

    FOREIGNID: 16112
    Everoyne seems to be focused on monetary reparations. While a more economic balance in the United States and elsewhere is needed, internal or spritual reparations are more important for the now. Slavery was about more than owning slaves. Slavery was a profitable business to the United States and the world. Direct slave owning fueled export and imports of all “civilized” nations. For this reason the United States and their co-conspirators as a whole should make reparations to all Africans no matter where they currently reside. This however is very unlikely to happen because exploring the gravity and brutality of slavery and the mental defects it created (for Europeans and Africans) will never truly or wholeheartedly be accomplished. European-Americans will not dig deep enough into their psyche to rid themselves of their superiority-complex nor will they fully accept responsibilty for their dehumanizing peoples of color. Reparation to me is a lengthy process. It begins with clarification and accepting the reality of history from all points of view (not just the European view), a dissolving of our current government system; because democracy and capitalism are strengthened by inequality and ethnic discord; and a new system created from the input and acceptance of all ethnic groups. A monetary reparation will not resolve or repair ethnic conflict nor heal the psyches of the enslaved and the slave owners. Ms. Browne has good intentions with her research but even she was unwilling to investigate deeper into her psyche to purge herself of the slave owner’s mentality. To read further about the psychology of slavery please read “Breaking the Curse of Willie Lynch: The science of slave psychology” by Alvin Morrow or “Breaking the chains of psychological slavery” by Na’im Akbar. Research is the key because without knowing the full scope of the issue how can you decide an effective solution to resolve it.

  • Rachel DiLor

    FOREIGNID: 16113
    Although it may be true that all of us have indirectly benefited from the use of slave labor in America, blacks are not the only group of people who were abused and exploited in the development of commerce here. The Chinese who helped lay railroads were also abominably mistreated. Native Americans were disenfranchised from their rightful lands as well by force or by violation of treaties made by whites with different tribes and nations.
    As a member of a family whose migration from Europe did not precede the late 19th Century, I feel no responsiblity for what happened before my ancestors landed on these shores.
    It is time for both side of this issue to take the moral responsibility for their attitudes. Blacks are not the only angry Americans, I am tired of hearing the mantra of reparation. If true forgiveness is to take place; whites need to raise their consciousness about what happened and blacks need to let go of anger and forgive.

  • Carolyn

    FOREIGNID: 16114
    I found this to be a truly honest film, full of authentic feeling. As a white woman who taught at Howard University and lived in DC for many years, and and had a long relationship with an African American man, I have not been able to arrive at a comfortable place with race issues to this day. My mother would not agree to even meet my boyfriend, which so discouraged him it broke up our relationship. It was the final blow. My parents were immigrants from Europe, and I did not understand where their bias came from, as we lived in ND, where not a single black person was in evidence. I applaud Katrina’s third way, and believe it is the only way. Many of my African American friends have long ago given up triying to find reconciliation. They have lives to live, and they are doing so. This will be a very long journey to reonciliation, and from my point of view, it will only occur when Jesus Christ returns to this earth and cleanses it. There is no political will for reconciliation, there is too much greed and pride. My path is to tread the path of reconciliation as an individual. That is all I can do.

  • Lisa

    FOREIGNID: 16115
    I read some comments from others on this site and i realized some people aren’t getting the point of the film. A woman (Mary Mura) wrote that she is from German and Croatian immigrants who arrived to the U.S. after 1880 and that they did not benefit from the slave trade. I think that Ms. Mura is misinformed this country became an economic powerhouse because of slavery. That is why people migrated here in the first place to have a better opportunities but one must aknowledge this country profited off of slave labor over 400 years therefore all people have benefitted from slavery. I think that is the point of the film. We must aknowledge these things in order to heal.

  • Claudia

    FOREIGNID: 16116
    Wonderful film! Thank you all for sharing your journey; it could not have been easy.
    I am curious as to what the response has been for you (the 10 family members) as you have returned to your communities now that the film has aired. What has the response in Bristol been? I am also curious if the ancestral home that is now a museum has changed their literature!
    Thank you!

  • Jim Sigman

    FOREIGNID: 16117
    Where do Ms. Brown and the DeWolf family get off extrapolating their family’s participation in the slave trade to, presumably, the involvement of all, “white” people? I am a 68 year old “white” person. My family came to this country in the early 20th century from Eastern Europe, where our position on the abuse continuum was closer to that of slaves than their captors. While we cannot claim exemption from the expression of historical black/white racial bias, WE HAD NO PART IN THE SLAVE TRADE!
    I saw Ms. Brown’s film as another example of monied Eastern elitist WASPs engaging in moralistic breast-beating and self-indulgence so that we, the great unwashed in the hinterlands, can clearly observe their intrinsic moral and intellectual superiority. These folks even made sure that we were aware of their background. As usual, the Harvard Man, when asked the location of the nearest restroom, can never resist conveying in his reply the fact that they had restrooms at HARVARD. My hope is that the people who appeared in the documentary remain involved in such inane activities as making poor “documentary” films and sharing wine at the Episcopal church!
    If we’re going to feel historically sorry for someone I’ll go with the Native Americans, whose land we took and culture we destroyed. In fact, let’s dispense with the entire historical sorrow thing and deal with the mega problems facing Earth in the 21st century! Anyone out there got an idea how to create an endless supply of carbonless fuel to allow Ms Brown to travel to her next location for the making of her new film on the continuing inequities arising from the Potato Famine??

  • Fred – New Orleans

    FOREIGNID: 16118
    I was hoping this doco would have been more about the slave trade and less about a group of well-bred wasps needing to feel good about themselves. In 1850 less than 1.5% of Americans were slave owners. Even in the South this translated to less than 5% of the population. The DeWolfs were part of this elite and it’s admirable that the film showed the need to place responsibility with the actual perpetrators instead of giving them a free ride on the myth of collective guilt. Repatriations are also a myth. There is no ‘repair’ possible for the African Holocaust, segregation or anything else. Injustice becomes a part of what a person is. If he or she survives it, they can forgive, bounce back, hate, flounder, remember, forget, deny or make the best of what’s left but there is not “repair”. My sincere and loving advice to Black America is that it will be a quicker means to an end to rely on your own strengths to prosper. Don’t wait to be “given” anything, even if it’s due. There will always be strings attached or unintended consequences. But on the other hand never stop teaching, showing the rest us that from the greatest of forced sacrifices cams the greatest gifts to our culture and society. You will prevail.

  • Kevin Jackson

    FOREIGNID: 16119
    As an african american, southerner, history grad of both HBCU(Historically Black Colleges and Universities) and an Ivy League University, and a christian, i found it fascinating and a relief to finally see northerners taking some responsibility for that peculiar institution that WE they were the major players in.
    We too often read and study the scapegoating of slavery on the white southern plantation owners–Traces of the Trade mentions this on a few occasions, but it needs to be driven home. All the Northern states-less so in Vermont, New Hampshire-were explicit slave holding states and were not, as conventional wisdom would have you believe-the proud abolitionist saviors. We know that William Seward, Ben Franklin and even Abe Lincoln’s family while in Pennsylvania owned slaves. We also know that attitudes towards black africans in the American north, was not one of acceptance, equality or kindness, but a often as brutal and definitely as neglectful as other areas.
    What i dont hear in this short and unfulfilling documentary is the understanding that people of color are still seen as the other today. In Miss Browne’s Boston and Philadelphia, are some of the worst divisions of race in the United States. The legacy the slave trade wrought in the north is even more insidious, i feel , than my native Charleston SC, Missisippi or Texas. The filmmaker doesnt address the fact that most whites and blacks in her New England live utterly seperate lives and where are the friendships, the Interracial relationships and marriages that should occur between blacks and liberal, Ivy League graduated whites? I see nothing in the documentary that address that, only the attempt to assuage the DeWolff’s guilt by discussing reparations.
    It is when blacks and whites learn to love and live alongside one another that there will be true change, not a pay off by guilty white liberals to wash their hands of it.
    I also wonder what the Episcopal church really does to make a direct change on racial divisions and reconciliation? I belonged to a dialogue group on racial reconciliation while in Portland Oregon a decade back. I saw first hand the timidy of the whites to talk about race and the lack of historical, emotional understanding of the fact that blacks are just as human as whites and the divisions often are ignorance and fear. I see that in this documentary as well. A group of elite americans, highly educated and well spoken and yet they could not verbalize the fact that they live in white worlds and that the simple change would be to cross the racial lines to MAKE FRIENDS with blacks and people of color-NOT just intellectualize about Blacks and how they feel about the slave trade.
    No amount of reparations will solve this!

  • George Allen

    FOREIGNID: 16120
    This comment has been removed by the moderator.

  • Doris

    FOREIGNID: 16121
    I am interested in the fact that despite the fact that PBS indicates several show times after the original one on 6-24-08 that CET in Cincinnati is not airing the show at any other time. Not even less than prime times like 3:00 am. As another descendant of slave traders from who missed knowing about the show in time for me to see or record it I am disappointed that it was not considered worthy of even one additional showing. I have no ideas if CET monitors this blog but wanted to express this opinion. I did listen to the podcast of the interview and was glad to hear it.

  • andrea

    FOREIGNID: 16122
    its very difficult to read some of these comments. i realize no one is forcing me to–but how can i ignore all the capital letters and exclamation points?
    traces of the trade is personal, and certainly controversial. so it makes sense that from some corners there’s resistance and objection… but why all that RAGE against the privilege of the group in the film?
    their transformation and honesty over those 90 minutes should speak to many people. if it doesn’t, would it really take more than a 91st minute to reason with how these nine people obtained their privilege?
    trace… it back to the day they were born, of those particular “wasp-y” parents. nobody can object to popping out on their birthday, for better or for worse. seriously, none of them could say “no thanks, no slave trading blood in my veins please”.
    they were born into a certain life, and while they were living it, they got the chance to understand their place in the world. most of us strive for that.
    and in the film they’re addressing these PERSONAL issues, publically. beyond that, they point out simply how those things mirror SOCIAL issues facing america.
    katrina asks if it wouldn’t be better that we could all be made aware too, of the roots and realities of our society. and she’d like the dewolfs to lead, however they can.
    they’ve recognized the privilege that allows them to do so, after all.

  • David

    FOREIGNID: 16123
    Slavery was and is a horrible institution. It’s beyond degrading because even degraded people are still human. Slavery is dehumanizing.
    Having said that, I found the documentary and its participants annoying, and selfish. Selfish you say? They are asking the entire country to have more than just a dialog to free her and her family from their legacy and guilt. My mother came to this country in 1960 and my dad came from a relatively poor family- he was no slave owner- and always taught us to treat people of all colors with respect. Most people in America come from a background similar to mine in that they and theirs had nothing to do with racism, slavery, and prejudice. We shouldn’t have to talk about slavery, feel any guilt about it, consider “terms” that heel “our” past.
    Catherine, you have issues, that much is obvious. It looks to me like your Harvard ilk does also. If you want to heel something, go ahead. But stop asking white people to feel and share your guilt and pain. We don’t deserve it, and quite frankly neither do you- but that’s your issue. You talk like this country(the entire country?) needs to come to terms with slavery. Well, I have new for your miss, hundreds of thousands of white people died putting an end to that horrible institution. What do you want people in Wyoming to do about it today, huh?
    I suggest you and your family try to find some descendants of people directly affected by your family’s involvement in the slave trade and do something for them but leave the rest of us alone. Your sins are your own, not ours. I’m not surprised though that a liberal Harvard family would want the rest of the country to bare the burden.

  • Kevin Jackson

    FOREIGNID: 16124
    Many will assuage their guilt of slavery and racism by voting for Obama, then who needs to pay reparations then. It is all ridiculous. Just acknowledge it, forgive, change your attitudes people who have different color skin and move on. dont try to purge your guilt with a vote or a whine by the episcopa; church and liberal spending.
    it is funny how they chose the black man who most supports repartations, not john mcwhorter who doesnt.

  • James DeWolf Perry

    FOREIGNID: 16125
    Kevin asks, “where are the friendships, the Interracial relationships and marriages that should occur between blacks and liberal, Ivy League graduated whites? I see nothing in the documentary that address that ….”
    That’s interesting, Kevin. Did you assume that those of us in the film do not have friendships, and even marriages, with black (and other non-white) people? Do you feel that it would have helped if this had been spelled out in the film?
    It’s true that some DeWolf descendants in the film had not had much experience interacting with black members of society. Tom, for instance, writes about this in his book, and he’s not the only one who spoke about this on the trip. Tom’s also the one who comments in the film that it would be “hard” for him to be the only white person at a black play or concert. As you correctly note, black, Asian, and other non-white Americans are even today too often seen as the “other” and live their lives separately from whites.
    However, for the most part, we in the film do represent a cross-section of (white) American society. While the separation you describe is a part of that society, so too, increasingly, are interracial friendships and marriages, and our family definitely reflects these trends, as well.

  • James DeWolf Perry

    FOREIGNID: 16126
    Kevin (Jackson) writes, “it is funny how they chose the black man who most supports repartations, not john mcwhorter who doesnt.”
    Actually, in the film we speak with Charles Ogletree, a Harvard law professor who supports reparations, and Glenn Loury, a Brown professor who raises objections to the idea of reparations.
    More importantly, Kevin, it’s clearly not enough to simply acknowledge the past and move on. Whatever the right solutions might be, and I’m certainly not endorsing reparations here, the plain fact is that the legacy of slavery lives on, not just in our attitudes, but also in the economic and other material circumstances of many black Americans today.
    As long as we can trace the effects of slavery, and the century of brutal discrimination which followed, to the circumstances of many members of society today, it won’t do to simply suggest that it’s all in the past and can be forgotten.

  • Janie Behr

    FOREIGNID: 16127
    Before watching this program, I thought that slave traders had been unscrupulous, pirate-like individuals– little did I know that they were upper-crust New Englanders! I also had not realized that slaves were owned by Northerners too; indeed, by people around the world. Granted, the voyage over to America was not exactly a QEII experience for the Africans- in fact to me it was the most horrendous aspect of the slave trade- but once they were settled on the plantations, their lives improved. Make no mistake, the tribes of Africa had been at war for decades, and the slaves who were sold were already in captivity. They were sold by their African captors, sometimes in exchange for cannons (not just rum) which were used on other Africans. In short, life in western Africa in the 1700 and 1800′s was not the idyllic paradise dreamed up by Hollywood script writers. Life was harsh and historians say that the argument cannot be made that the lives of slaves would have been better had they remained in Africa. The ones who survived the inhumane trip across the Atlantic were indeed fortunate in many ways. The fact is, life on the plantation was not that bad for the majority of slaves. Some were taught to read and write, and most were converted to Christianity. Europeans who visited the south before the Civil War wrote that the slaves they encountered were well-fed, well-clothed, well-treated– much better, in fact, than the laborers in Europe at the time. This surprised them greatly for they had believed the rumors, as some people still do today. Slavery, as has been pointed out, was a world-wide phenomenon for centuries. The DeWolf family, I’m certain, saw themselves as entrepreneurs, and very successful ones at that. To see the world through their point-of-view requires us to take a step back in time, and to realize the way things were back then. Things have vastly changed since then, of course, and the practice of buying and selling human beings is long gone. Let the past be the past.

  • Kevin Jackson

    FOREIGNID: 16128
    James, i recognize after the fact that your brother, having lived in Charleston, actually married a black woman. But had to go to the website to find that out. But the documentary itself doesnt show this. it shows a few blacks in the congregation in Bristol, the few black professors that were hand picked for promoting the reparations angle(none from the other side). But no where does it show friendships, whites and blacks in real relationships, except the one co producer. Where are the everyday black people of your communities, the adopted children, the black neighbors, workers, etc.
    We can all say we want to end racism, to purge ourselves from the past issues of slavery and to learn from them but it is futile act for a group of elitists to act as if they see regular black people as humans, as equals. I live in the same neighborhood in Philadelphia as the Episcopal church in Pine Street and have attended before. I dont see it brimming with interracial life and love. a few blacks here and there but if one knows philadelphia one knows the extreme racial and economic divide here.
    It is a northern city, 80% democratic and tons of liberals, and yet, white women still cross the street when a black man comes toward them. whites still socialize with whites and blacks with blacks.
    So, James, no it was not apparent at all in the documentary that you guys understood racial integration, racial harmony and/or felt comfortable with black people or had real relationships with them. I found it hilarious, as an Ivy league, to watch everyone one around a table acknowledging your education backgrounds without being able to understand the one major issue. That blacks and whites dont know each other as humans, and so we keep having academic floggings and guilty sidebars about how we can over come. I never can understand why all the education in the world still hasnt produced simple change, simple action. We seem to need documentaries to tell us what we already knew.
    it should have been a reparations doc, as thats what it seem to turn into.

  • Lynelle

    FOREIGNID: 16129
    David Ben-Ariel wrote: “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.”
    When you say “repatriation,” do you mean that White people should return to Europe? Based on the content of your post, I’m assuming this is not the repatriation you desire. This reeks of the old, tired refrain, “Go back to Africa.” Let me remind you that this is Native American land, first and foremost that did not belong to you in the first place.

  • Julie Fanselow

    FOREIGNID: 16130
    Thank you for a sobering yet hopeful film. I learned a lot. To me, the film’s most powerful moment – out of many – may have been when Tom described his journey from thinking “That’s just how it was back then” to “This was an evil thing and they knew it was evil.” That’s a huge leap, and the fact it inspired him to work for resolutions at the Episcopal conference shows that people can move from recognition to action.
    For people who do want to talk deeply – then take action – on racial equity, please let me recommend the organization Everyday Democracy, where I work as a writer and online organizer. Everyday Democracy (formerly the Study Circles Resource Center) has been working since the early ’90s to help communities hold large-scale, inclusive, action-oriented dialogues for change on many issues, especially race. We have a discussion guide, “Facing Racism in a Diverse Nation,” that is specifically designed to help communities have these conversations (and we also have a guide for affinity-group dialogue, too; that is, a tool for white people to talk about racism, as the film suggests). Both can be downloaded for free at the Everyday Democracy website at
    I’ve posted a few more thoughts on the film at our DemocracySpace blog:
    Thanks very much for advancing this critical national conversation.

  • K. Kirk

    FOREIGNID: 16131
    It was an interesting show to say the least but I have a few thought about it pro and con. From a personal point of view I think that you can not just look at slavery as black and white. Out of slavery came shades of color and a change to what people consider color. As a Jamaican-Amercian who has “black” family and “white” family it a blessing that we are here from the union of my great grandmother a slave from Senegal and my grand father a German. Now should I feel guilty about the slave trade? It is my heritage as awful as that may be.
    What I think is more important here is that we do not set these lines of division up but allow the moment the present to be. Why should we spend energy and money to look at this past when there are issues that we should address today. Child slaves in 3rd world countries…the homeless on our strees…the lonely elderly…the lost in a world of depression.
    These are things that are happening now and we choose to spend our energy on the past? I can not do anything to help my grand mother who was more then likely taken to Jamaica in an awful manner and away from her homeland. I can show compassion to those in the present moment and honor her by hopefully trying to ease their pain.
    Really you don’t have to look that far back to find something to be compassionate about.

  • Kevin Jackson

    FOREIGNID: 16132
    Another issue in the reparations is who? who benefits? Mr. Ogletree assumes and with seeming support from some in the DeWolf clan, that only the poorest blacks should be served by reparations, not all african americans who suffered. So are reparations to be another welfare scheme? Although my family hasnt been in poverty since Reconstruction, and we paid for our education without the help of government or charity for 5 generations, we are still ancestors of slaves in America. Our ancestors suffered too, but it seems that under the views of Mr. Ogletree and others, only the bottom sector of the african american community should benefit from reparations.
    hmmm, thats not really repairing anything. Thats just again, assuaging the guilt for what happened and trying to win the sympathy for the masses. I nice little trick i notice white liberals do everyday. They tend to recognize those blacks who they stereotype as black, but ignore the middle class and other classes of blacks, as somehow not really black, not really “a project” they can work on.
    i say NO to reparations, unless the DeWolf clan chooses to pay themselves–thats on them. And definitely NO to selective reparations, that is politically motivated and guilt driven.

  • Franklin Leach

    FOREIGNID: 16133
    As the film began, I assumed I would see another poke at the South regarding the treatment of Africans and the almost “holier than thou” attitude that generally accompanies a lecture on human rights from anyone in new England.
    It is hard to feel sorry for the participants, but at the same time refreshing to see the look of dimay,denail, and finally acceptance on the faces of these “privilidged” folk.
    Being reared in the DEEP South my attitude is one of sad denial also and have been reminded of our backwoods, less than opportunistic way f life for a long time.It must be a real wake-up not to be able to coyly “blame ” the “great unwashed” and sit contentedly on the laurels of such a proud and “important” ancestory.
    I”m sorry …. no wonder your grandmother didn”t “have the stomach”. The film was so sad on many levels,and I felt dirty after viewing it . Kinda shakes the whole tree of undesireable fruit. Shame

  • http://html L. Perry

    FOREIGNID: 16134
    America could never begin to repay African Americans for all of the damage that has been committed. Every indigenous people that has encountered caucasians on their shores were ‘doomed’. How tragic is it that “God” and religion only seemed to justify and even encourage the slave trade? Good work PBS. L. Perry

  • James DeWolf Perry

    FOREIGNID: 16135
    Kevin, you’ve obviously noticed that my uncle, Dain, married a black woman. But it’s not because he lived in Charleston, S.C. as a boy. As you can easily discover online, my aunt and uncle met in Boston, just a few years ago, at church.
    It’s true that the film focuses on white DeWolf descendants, and on their conversations with select groups of people. As you say, our black friends, neighbors, and colleagues are not featured in the film. But you shouldn’t assume that we don’t have such relationships, and aren’t comfortable with them.
    I agree with you about the often extreme separation between whites and blacks (and others) in many aspects of our society, even today. Ironically, this separation is often less in many “elite” settings, such as ivy league universities, but it is hardly gone.
    I also agree with you that much of the solution to our nation’s enduring problems with race will consist in the gradual elimination of the lingering barriers in our society to relationships without regard to race.

  • Anton Grambihler

    FOREIGNID: 16136
    The United States has been committing horrendous war crimes every since the US Senators became representatives of the Special Interests Groups instead of representatives of the States. After this the United States turned a European War into WWI and has been a War Monger and has funded war mongers ever since.
    How many people died in Vietnam from Napalm? How many have died in Iraq? How many have died in Palestine? How many have died in Lebanon? How many Pregnant Women had babied die in their mothers wombs when they died from Cluster bombs secretly provided to Israel?
    These are the crimes that we the current citizens of the United States need to be held accountable.

  • Kevin Jackson

    FOREIGNID: 16137
    Mr Franklin Leach, dont feel sad. only 5% of white southerners owned slaves, most were poor farmers and small merchants. The history books and the powerful in academia, politics and culture did their best to smash to the south and blame them for what was a national issue, a national tragedy.
    As a black southerner, who studied and have degrees in the area of history, i lept with joy that finally the northerners–like my school, Brown, were beginning to recognize that the Northerners were at the center of the slave trade in America. But this not new history, if one goes beyond the abysmal public school textbooks and read all the history thats out there–begin with Prof. Leon Litwack’s-”Been in the Storm so Long” and anything by Cash, Woodward, Genovesie, E Franklin Frazier. The peculiar institution of slavery is discussed in total and we know that Northerners owned, sold and traded in slaves. We know how the institutions were built and how the people benefited and we know who didnt benefit–namely the poor farmers and the landless.
    I like another book by a fellow Charlestonian named Edward Ball. His book, “Slaves in the family” actually acknowledges and tries to build relationships with the people descendant from his slaves.
    also, mr leach, never look down and think less of yourself for being backwoods–the northeast liberals dont want people to know that much of the northeast outside of the industrial centers is backwoods and no different that the deepsouth in attitudes and viewpoints.

  • James DeWolf Perry

    FOREIGNID: 16138
    Kevin, you also seem to be under the impression that members of the DeWolf are wealthy and could pay to repair the consequences of American slavery themselves. That’s simply not the case.
    You raise an interesting point about who should receive any reparations, however. Why do you believe that middle-class Americans, or those who are even more well-off, should be considered for reparations? Isn’t Professor Ogletree right that the “American” remedy would be to focus assistance on those who need it most, and not merely to use skin color or ancestry as the basis for offering benefits?

  • Kevin Jackson

    FOREIGNID: 16139
    Mr. Dewolf Perry,
    i think you misunderstood me. I didnt say he met and married her in SC, and yes i knew he was livng in Boston. But the issue is, he at least crossed that barrier and isnt just talking the talk but walking it. I am married to a proud New England WASP protestant from NH.
    The issue isnt that you didnt show your black friends, colleagues, neighbors, etc., but that you all seem so stunned by Ghana, Cuba and the history of slave holding in New England, especially in places like Bristol, Boston, New London when you “do” have black friends, … I have Israeli friends, i think i know and wish to study more and more about the plight of Israel, jews and the diaspora. I have yankee family through marriage, it is imparative that an educated man, if i am truly educated, would desire to know about their life, their history, their culture. I am not stunned by thinks i read and hear about New England, as i live in this great country and it is apart of our history. It is sheer laziness to just stumble on what was apart of a typical 7 grade history textbook.
    having black friends and friends different than ourselves, if they are true friends, neighbors, is to have them in our homes, not just saying hi in the office. it is asking about them, their lives, their histories. it is not just surface bonding, but truly venturing into the hard areas. There should not have been a shocked look on Katrina Browne’s face as to the treatment, the horror, the facts of Yankee slaving, as she lived in Philadelphia–where today, blacks are still in dire situations with crumbling schools, high drop out rates, homeless and poverty, some of the worst violent crime in the nation. All she would have to do is look around her not have to travel to ghana or cuba, but north philly or south boston to see it.

  • Franklin Leach

    FOREIGNID: 16140
    Mr. Jackson, It would be untrue to say I felt “bcakwoods” or less than. My obvious reluctance to feel responsible is accompanied by a real pride in my own heritage. The repulsive nature of the entire era is a shame on human-kind. My problem comes with the attitude of “better -than ” displayed by many from that region . I truly am sorry and know it took some fortitude to show this film,but still feel helpless at times to do anything. How about Give the money back and let the two slaves ancestors ride in the coach this fourth of July

  • Kevin Jackson

    FOREIGNID: 16141
    Mr. DeWolf Perry,
    I only assumed you all still had the wealth of your family by the sheer fact that you all brought up the reparations issue and who should pay or how it might work. Persons who dont have priviledge and means would not be asking others to think of how to repay something they didnt cause. Your family opened the dialogue as a personal one. The issue of your families responsibility and role in the transatlantic slave trade, so i think it would be imperative that your family decide how or if you would be working on reparations. But not to somehow use this family history as a way of guilting others into the scheme.
    As for your question about professor Ogltree, i think he is dead wrong about reparations. it is not reparations if it is only to assist those who He or YOU feel should be assisted. What if you family had been affected by your families slave trade(who knows if we werent) why should a kid in the ghetto be given reparations while my family does not? There is nothing fair, equatible or intelligent about that. It seems it is just trying to give out handouts to the poor to calm the masses, but it is utter without common sense. It is not reparations but a payment to the welfare system–which i think has been done already and yet some failed.

  • Kevin Koch

    FOREIGNID: 16142
    This was a thought-provoking documentary but dismissing the African contribution to the slave trade (providing the goods) with the brief scene of a historian dismissing it as the solely the actions of a few kings denies the mirror image of the entire town of Bristol being involved in the trade rather than just James DeWolf….the african kings also had to have someone capture and herd the people, forge their shackles, give a final washing-up to the newly minted slaves, and build the fortress including the door of no return. It is a shameful legacy for humanity to deal with but genes and skin tone alone do not define the culprits. We all have in our DNA the ability to accept and participate in this kind of travesty. It continues today. Maybe we should examine the circumstances that supported slavery yesterday and still support it today, rather than blame historical figures and specific races for promulgating it.

  • Nicole

    FOREIGNID: 16143
    Traces of the Trade was extremely captivating. Initially when I saw the advert I thought I wouldn’t bother watching it. But I turned it on and, to my surprise, I was immediately compelled. I am of Mexican American and Native American decent, and am scholar of Ethnic Studies and the Theatre. I agree with a previous post which suggested that people read “The Mis-Education of the Negro.” This is one the most important books I have ever reads. It opens your eyes to a huge dilemma in America; so many people in this country have been miseducated and have allowed themselves to live the truths of others, as opposed to seeking their own truths, seeking knowledge, and educating themselves about the core of humanity in America and beyond. I commend Katrina and her family members for the journey they took. A journey in search of truth, no matter how devastating or beautiful the truth may be. I also commend Juanita for her work on the film. I thought it was a powerful way of educating the ‘mis-educated,” and it was a well done film. Finally, I wanted to speak about the African American Woman in Africa who refused to shake the hand of a white man. Please know, she is living her own truth…as each person does. And while this may be largely a black and white issue, it is ever so important to see each individual for the person they are, the compassion they carry within and the truth that they live. Many Blessings, Nicole

  • Blayer Pointdujour

    FOREIGNID: 16144
    Janie your statement that life on the plantation was not that bad for the majority of slaves is erroneous. I doubt these Europeans who visited the south before the Civil War knew what they were talking about. Speaking as a American Haitian, I’m sure that life on the plantation was not pleasant for any slave. What good is food and Bible lessons if your not Free!

  • Nicole

    FOREIGNID: 16145
    Traces of the Trade was extremely captivating. Initially when I saw the advert I thought I wouldn’t bother watching it. But I turned it on and, to my surprise, I was immediately compelled. I am of Mexican American and Native American decent, and am a scholar of Ethnic Studies and the Theatre. I agree with a previous post which suggested that people read “The Mis-Education of the Negro.” This is one of the most important books I have ever read. It opens your eyes to a huge dilemma in America; so many people in this country have been miseducated and have allowed themselves to live the truths of others, as opposed to seeking their own truths, seeking knowledge, and educating themselves about the core of humanity in America and beyond. I commend Katrina and her family members for the journey they took. A journey in search of truth, no matter how devastating or beautiful the truth may be. I also commend Juanita for her work on the film. I thought it was a powerful way of educating the ‘mis-educated,” and it was a well done film. Finally, I wanted to speak about the African American woman in Africa who refused to shake the hand of a white man. Please know, she is living her own truth…as each person does. And while this may be/seem largely a black and white issue, it is ever so important to see each individual for the person they are, the compassion they carry within and the truth that they live. Many Blessings, Nicole

  • Blayer Pointdujour

    FOREIGNID: 16146
    Janie your statement that life on the plantation was not that bad for the majority of slaves is erroneous. I doubt these Europeans who visited the south before the Civil War knew what they were talking about. Speaking as a American Haitian, I’m sure that life on the plantation was not pleasant for any slave. What good is food and Bible lessons if your not Free!

  • jane grey

    FOREIGNID: 16147
    This was a terrific documentary from a truly remarkable family willing to share their journey with us, this is the true meaning of WE THE PEOPLE. To accept accountability is a higher-functioning action that we are now beginning to embrace – perhaps as a necessity. It is certainly an indulgence and a luxury. When it’s kill or be killed, dog-eat-dog one is ether the eater or the eaten. This paradigm, and others like it (conform or be ostracized, for example) is really not the most attractive choice, but when presented with only two options can it be a fairly simple decision to make. When we are allowed the luxury and education (itself a luxury – and perhaps, increasingly, a necessity) to evaluate what our options really are we may become befuddled. There’s a reflexive response which is to retreat to one’s initial understanding and framing of the situation, one which says if it’s them or us, better it be them (who suffer) and us (who don’t – or not as much) if we are able to have any say in the matter. And thus the weakest are prey and aggrieved and the strongest are predatory and relieved. The other initial response may be to “wish it were different” without any idea how to create such a paradigm change (just how exactly are those done, anyway?). Such a position easily is dismissed as “unrealistic”, unpragmatic and impracticable. It is unfortunately too easy to skewer this family (and hey, we should all be able to laugh at ourselves and our foibles), to see the filmmaker’s pov as a typical white girl’s impotent gnashing of teeth in the face of a harsh reality (an exercise in pointlessness, self-flagilation and futility), without seeing the, potentially large, impact that the mere (or not-so-mere) act of courage itself in taking this journey, has on changing what our options are and how we view them. Both white and black people, while approaching this from opposite ends, need to do take this kind of personal journey. Or, in any case we have the option of doing it. And why do it? Simply because it is the more attractive option. And we are now smart enough to be able to recognize it. Or anyway, we might be.
    I would suggest that the filmmaker’s ending evokes our possibility in the most crucial way and as we struggle for the answers to “what next” and “how” we recognize that it is our collective personal journeys -on which we all have equal footing, if not equal courage (and courage is after all, something which can be learned and taught -inspired) – which is the answer. It’s a funny thing how the door keeps opening when we take this approach, and it becomes pretty interesting, less of a problem than a creation. Which, after all, is enjoyable. I hope in the moments where this family struggled to break out of a sort of damped-down humanity, to feel their own suppression (one necessarily required to perpetuate a trade in slavery), and in confronting it move past it, they were able to get a little more wiggle room for themselves, hopefully also overcoming some of their condescension and guilt (which can become self indulgent in the worst way). And I hope the family, the filmmaker, and her brave interlocutor friend continue to be inspired in their efforts to get us all to think about how to improve the situation. Because it definitely needs a lot of improvement!!!

  • Kevin Jackson

    FOREIGNID: 16148
    And maybe we should be trying to fight modern day slavery around the world and not just looking for ways to pay for the past. We have our Darfurs, we have our sex trafficking, and issues of women being brutalized around the world. I think we can find ways of really using reparations, by fighting so that others will not remain in slavery today.
    We blacks should be at the forefront of these issues, as we have been victims of this kind of man’ inhumanity. Whites should be at the forefront of trying to develop real relationships with blacks and others, not just superficial ones, so that we all are apart of the solution and not the problem.

  • David W. Hunt

    FOREIGNID: 16149
    Of all the positive ways I can imagine for engaging the reality of a moral tragedy and its personal challenges, Katrina Browne’s family journey tops my list.
    For many of our ancestors slavery offered an economic opportunity. Sailors, shipowners, barrel makers, textile mill owners and workers, investors, distillers, plantation owners, even African kings found economic benefit. As one family member asked “How would we have made a living in Bristol, Rhode Island if we had lived in those times?”
    How to reconcile the seductive economic attraction of slavery with its deeply evil, inhumane consequences is our challenge today. Thank you for this presentation. I shall watch for further efforts by this family and others.

  • James DeWolf Perry

    FOREIGNID: 16150
    I apologize if I misunderstood, Kevin, the connection you were drawing between my uncle having lived in Charleston, and his marrying my aunt.
    Please don’t leap to criticize those of my distant cousins who weren’t aware of the full history of slavery and the slave trade. It may be history that is found in some seventh-grade textbooks, but it was not found in the typical textbook when most of them were growing up. (Tom, for instance, writes powerfully in his book about not having been previously exposed to this history.) In fact, I can attest, having spoken with secondary-school teachers and with high school and college classes about this topic, that many students even today are still not being taught the basics of these aspects of our history.
    The fact that Katrina wanted to discuss the possibility of reparations in her film isn’t a sign that we’re wealthy people. It’s a sign that she recognizes that benefits of slavery accrued to all Americans, and that she believes Americans ought to address the lingering harm from that institution.
    You’ll notice, also, that only one of the ten of us even supported the idea of reparations in the film.

  • Kevin Jackson

    FOREIGNID: 16151
    i could think of many more positive ways thank making a documentary, while i commend her on doing it. It does nothing in truly bridging the gap of the evils of slavery, or seeking absolutions from teh Episcopal church. why not go to a Baptist church that is black and ask for redemption?
    it is a typically elitist way of getting around the issue. I thought, the cousin from Oregon and the other cousin who got angry in cuba because it was just becoming an academic exercise and not really crossing the street to know , really know black americans who might have had ancestors that were victims of the slave trade. Going to cuba and Ghana were cop outs, when they could have gone to areas around the US to really make amends.

  • Kevin Jackson

    FOREIGNID: 16152
    I definitely didnt see only one of the ten, but I will look at it again. The issue is why would you even think about reparations if you dont have the means to pay it out? It seems like something people would do if they plan to reach into others pockets to do that.
    as for the education system, perhaps that was not the experience of most of your cousins and even with Ivy educated, they were miseducated by the system. I am second generation attender of Brown University, in my 40s and have taught school here and abroad, i dont see how one would have escaped learning about the transatlantic slave trade since i have mentioned the great historians earlier who have been writing about this since before any of your cousins-sans the one with a night school degree, was even born.
    but if you say so. it is a typical answer for someone who doesnt really wish acknowledge the truth but i will give it to ya.

  • James DeWolf Perry

    FOREIGNID: 16153
    Kevin, I agree with you that it felt strange to be in Ghana and Cuba, when I was more concerned with our own society. You can hear my frustration in my comment in the film, about wanting to focus on the “living consequences” of slavery today.
    As for your suggestion to go to a black church and ask for redemption, I don’t feel the need to ask anyone for redemption, at least not for anything I haven’t done. That’s not what this is about, at least not for me.
    As for why Americans might consider reparations, if they don’t personally have the means to pay it out, what makes you believe that reparations would be for individuals to pay? I’ve only heard that argument before from those who think that people should pay for the sins of their ancestors, and that doesn’t sound like an argument you’d make.
    As for learning the history, I’m not sure why you believe that most Americans would know about the role of the North, for instance, in the transatlantic slave trade. It simply isn’t in most general history textbooks, and few people, in my experience, read that sort of history in their adult lives. (You and I seem to both be exceptions to that general rule.)

  • Tony Bradley

    FOREIGNID: 16154
    I have not read all the posts, so I am not certain this point has not been made about reparations. Where would the money come from? If it comes from state or federal government all taxpayers, black, white and brown will have contributed. This does not seem to be an equitable way of repairing the damage, real or imagined, that white America inflicted on black America. Businesses do not suffer lawsuits without consequences. The cost of reparations will be passed along in higher costs to consumers, all consumers, and lost jobs. This is but a single reason that talk of reparations leaves so many Americans cold. There is no way to amend the past. We can only change what happens now.
    Which leads to my second point. Ms. Browne’s film seemed heartfelt and sincere. And shallow and useless. All the talk in the world will not help the problems black America faces today. Will Ms. Browne’s guilt stop a single out-of wedlock pregnancy? Will her acceptance of complicity in the slave trade prevent a single gang related shooting? Did her globe trotting create a single job for an African-American? Actions, not words are needed now. The Anglican Church can ponder its complicity in the slave trade and it might make a whole lot of rich white people feel better. It should instead invest in the African-American community. Deeds not words are needed now. Apologies are meaningless at this late date.

  • Tony Bradley

    FOREIGNID: 16155
    I have not read all the posts, so I am not certain this point has not been made about reparations. Where would the money come from? If it comes from state or federal government all taxpayers, black, white and brown will have contributed. This does not seem to be an equitable way of repairing the damage, real or imagined, that white America inflicted on black America. Businesses do not suffer lawsuits without consequences. The cost of reparations will be passed along in higher costs to consumers, all consumers, and lost jobs. This is but a single reason that talk of reparations leaves so many Americans cold. There is no way to amend the past. We can only change what happens now.
    Which leads to my second point. Ms. Browne’s film seemed heartfelt and sincere. And shallow and useless. All the talk in the world will not help the problems black America faces today. Will Ms. Browne’s guilt stop a single out-of wedlock pregnancy? Will her acceptance of complicity in the slave trade prevent a single gang related shooting? Did her globe trotting create a single job for an African-American? Actions, not words are needed now. The Anglican Church can ponder its complicity in the slave trade and it might make a whole lot of rich white people feel better. It should instead invest in the African-American community. Deeds not words are needed now. Apologies are meaningless at this late date.

  • Kevin Jackson

    FOREIGNID: 16156
    As an educated, i disagree, it is or was there as of the 1990s. any Gen X kids should have learned it between the 6th and 12th grades, esp in public school. Perhaps northern schools used a different textbook but in the South we definitely learned about the Northern part of the slave trade, indentured servitude, northern racism in new york, philadelphia up to the Civil War.
    reparations, i dont think you seem to get is what was talked about in the documentary, illiciting comments from black professors. If it is not talking about paying for the sins of the past then what exactly is it? It is who is responsible, who and how should it be rendered, should the government(as one of your cousins or uncles said) make apology for it, or should we not embark on it. But if individuals who have opened the box about their family history to the world, want to discuss reparations, are they discussing it as individuals and how the situation my be solved or are they talking about others businesses, fortunes, governmental, or familial? I am not sure what you mean by reparations?

  • Lisa

    FOREIGNID: 16157
    To Larry Lind who wrote: “Yes, slavery Was and Is a terrible thing that still happens today, but as a descendant of a non-slave owning family I do not feel shame and remorse or seek to apologize for slavery. Get over it. ”
    Larry i am not jewish nor did i live in germany either but i still have compassion for the lives lost during the holocaust and it is my duty as a person of faith and as a human being to try to break racial barriers that have contributed to slavery, racial genocide and the jewish holocaust. Despite your ancestors were not involved in the slave trade as mine were not involved in the jewish holocaust does not free you from racial superiority and prejudice. The entire world is responsible for the damage that has been done to all of us and “Getting over it” isn’t the solution the healing begins with you.

  • jane grey

    FOREIGNID: 16158
    Apologies!!! I wasn’t sure if I was using right term “interlocutor”, I meant as a sort of cultural go-between or representative, and looking it up only just now came across the minstrel show association. (!!!) (I’m pretty sure I’d never heard that connection to the word in my life). It just goes to show you how INTRACTABLE and unavoidable the subject is!!! I apologize for my ignorance about this other meaning of the word, and the meaning itself – but it’s hard to apologize for something so vast and all pervasive that, damn, you can’t even use a word without it having an association to something so shameful! I mean, I know it’s kind of random but I really do think this was just me grasping to find the right word (which it more or less seems to be) only to find it so horribly tainted. It’s hard enough being white and dealing with this, it’s gotta be 10,000x harder to be black and have to be confronted with this kind of thing all the time.

  • jane grey

    FOREIGNID: 16159
    This was a terrific documentary from a truly remarkable family willing to share their journey with us, this is the true meaning of WE THE PEOPLE. To accept accountability is a higher-functioning action that we are now beginning to embrace – perhaps as a necessity. It is certainly an indulgence and a luxury. When it’s kill or be killed, dog-eat-dog one is ether the eater or the eaten. This paradigm, and others like it (conform or be ostracized, for example) is really not the most attractive choice, but when presented with only two options can it be a fairly simple decision to make. When we are allowed the luxury and education (itself a luxury – and perhaps, increasingly, a necessity) to evaluate what our options really are we may become befuddled. There’s a reflexive response which is to retreat to one’s initial understanding and framing of the situation, one which says if it’s them or us, better it be them (who suffer) and us (who don’t – or not as much) if we are able to have any say in the matter. And thus the weakest are prey and aggrieved and the strongest are predatory and relieved. The other initial response may be to “wish it were different” without any idea how to create such a paradigm change (just how exactly are those done, anyway?). Such a position easily is dismissed as “unrealistic”, unpragmatic and impracticable. It is unfortunately too easy to skewer this family (and hey, we should all be able to laugh at ourselves and our foibles), to see the filmmaker’s pov as a typical white girl’s impotent gnashing of teeth in the face of a harsh reality (an exercise in pointlessness, self-flagilation and futility), without seeing the, potentially large, impact that the mere (or not-so-mere) act of courage itself in taking this journey, has on changing what our options are and how we view them. Both white and black people, while approaching this from opposite ends, need to do take this kind of personal journey. Or, in any case we have the option of doing it. And why do it? Simply because it is the more attractive option. And we are now smart enough to be able to recognize it. Or anyway, we might be.
    I would suggest that the filmmaker’s ending evokes our possibility in the most crucial way and as we struggle for the answers to “what next” and “how” we recognize that it is our collective personal journeys -on which we all have equal footing, if not equal courage (and courage is after all, something which can be learned and taught -inspired) – which is the answer. It’s a funny thing how the door keeps opening when we take this approach, and it becomes pretty interesting, less of a problem than a creation. Which, after all, is enjoyable. I hope in the moments where this family struggled to break out of a sort of damped-down humanity, to feel their own suppression (one necessarily required to perpetuate a trade in slavery), and in confronting it move past it, they were able to get a little more wiggle room for themselves, hopefully also overcoming some of their condescension and guilt (which can become self indulgent in the worst way). And I hope the family, the filmmaker, and her brave interlocutor friend continue to be inspired in their efforts to get us all to think about how to improve the situation. Because it definitely needs a lot of improvement!!!

  • Jack

    FOREIGNID: 16160
    Reparations make about as much sense as hanging the filmmaker for crimes of her ancestors. The motivation behind this film seems all too familiar — welfare for those who least need it. I’m amazed how those with the most education always take the path of least resistance. Unwilling or unable to use their own capital to produce anything tangible, they’re always first at the hog trough for money. Finally, it’s ironic that on the heels of the Civil War that brought an end to slavery, involuntary servitude still remains alive and well today, thriving ten times more ubiquitously than at the height of Southern civilization. Only no one today calls it slavery. And its no longer confined to just Blacks. Anyone with a job today making less than a living wage to support a family is a slave. Sure, you may argue that people have freedom to quit and go elsewhere to work. But this only means another low-paying job. Just because one is free to job-hop does not mean it’s not slavery. If Southern society had allowed slaves to plantation-hop, would’ve the Civil War been averted? Slavery today transcends all races, all religions, all ages and both sexes — even including children. Hardly anyone alive is exempt, that’s how bad involuntary servitude is. And for the tens of thousands who come of age for employment daily, chances are greatest that it is the educated who exploit the uneducated. Look at those Ivy Leaguers in the film. They believe it’s their birthright to sit in a restaurant while underpaid fellow humans serve them. It’s the same story outside the restaurant. Everyone wants a slave, be it for child care, house cleaning, retail service, car washing, clothes washing, take-out — there’s no end to the extent those with money will go to enslave their fellow man. To change this now endemic imbalance, it’ll mean destruction not unlike the collapse of the South during the Civil War. The American Revolution opened the eyes of the French, who sought to end exploitation using violence. One day soon, the eyes of the victims of exploitation will awaken to finally correct a system engineered by people who are far more evil than those who practiced slavery in the South. This filmmaker could never produce a film about modern-day slavery. To do that she’d have to set aside denial, and admit there’s a dual universe — one in which she lives, and the other in which 100 million Americans are exploited by a system set up to benefit only the educated and wealthy. Meanwhile, the filmmaker belongs to that corps of elite who never grew up, never did anything real, never sacrificed, never suffered, or never learned the essence of empathy.

  • Kevin Jackson

    FOREIGNID: 16161
    sorry that was “as an educator” lots of grammatical errors, sorry folks.
    thanks tony bradley, you said it properly. If the Episcopal church, liberal institutions, slave holding families and individuals want to give reparations, hey i am all for it, i could use money for gas these days. But asking regular americans to repair what individuals, organizations and government did in the past is absurd. We fought a war over it, we changed the constitution and the welfare, affirmative action address many of the issues of repairing the issues.
    It is only now for the guilty or those feeling guilty for it to own up to it. Those who are not involved should not be taxed or harrassed into feeling guilty for the past.
    Reparations doesnt repair the hole in the hearts of America. only one on one dialogue, one on one friendships and love. most think it is too difficult to make a change, so they talk about the surface stuff. but i rarely see, and i live in a city almost 50-50 black/white, i rarely seem people crossing the racial lines to make friends and lovers, to invite others into their homes and lives. What i see is broken lives. the gap between the rich and poor growing, the educational system failing black and brown and white students, and the intellectuals just blowing hot air.
    if the family truly wanted to repair the issue, it would be to help with bridging the gap of Americans white and black. It would focus on economic, structural and social issues but also religious ones. NOT blaming God for our sins, but looking at ourselves and saying what are we not doing to make a change.
    where are the whites in the black churches of america, where are the blacks at the white country clubs of america, where are the poor at the corporations in america, where are the wealthy in the libraries and public parks? we have not begun to bridge the gap and the miniscule attempts to talk about it only seem to be from the voices inside the liberal academy. I dont see POV or Frontline every talking to normal middle america about the racial divide

  • Blayer Pointdujour

    FOREIGNID: 16162
    Janie your statement that life on the plantation was not that bad for the majority of slaves is erroneous. I doubt these Europeans who visited the south before the Civil War knew what they were talking about. Speaking as a American Haitian, I’m sure that life on the plantation was not pleasant for any slave. What good is food and Bible lessons if your not Free!

  • Larry Lind

    FOREIGNID: 16163
    As a descendant of family members who came to the US in the 1920’s I and my family had nothing to do with slavery. Yes, my family came here on the own accords, but I should not be goaded into the collective “White Shame” of this film. Yes, blacks were treated badly and inhumanely and I agree totally that Reparations should be paid only to actual individuals that were slaves, just like we paid actual reparations to only the living Americans of Japanese descent the US put in internment camps during WWII. We as a country only owe the Native Americans anything they ask for. I believe the Native Americans should get Free houses, Medical care, Free Tuition to any college in the US on top of a monthly stipend. I don’t however believe one penny should go to the 4th and 5th generation descendants of slaves.
    How is it me being of European descent automatically make me a racist and prejudice of individuals of other races. You madam are Prejudiced as hell. You have judged me and consider me a White Supremacist. You probably were taught in school that white people are bad and every white person is a racist. I have read what goes on in college campuses these days. I consider myself an American; I don’t attach any race, ethnicity or heritage behind it.
    As far as the Jews go it was a terrible happenstance in world history. Slavery was blight on US and world history. I do feel sympathy for ANYONE that is a victim. Today all over the Middle East and parts of Africa slavery is in full affect. The factories of India, China and other third would countries are greased by the blood and sweat of Modern day slaves. The Sex trade is rampant throughout the world. I madam do feel sympathy. I do not however feel shame for slavery now and back in the creation of the US. I cannot and will not apologize for the deeds of other men. (White and black) who profited during the American Slave years. So, I say “Get Over It” American blacks and bleeding heart liberals.

  • Johnnie Henderson

    FOREIGNID: 16164
    God bless you for having the courage to face your family’s part in the slave trade. I pray that your example will inspire others to do the same. As an Afrcan-American woman in my sixties, I believe that God is setting the stage for a reconciliation between the races. Your story made me realize that I have a role to play also by mpt jp;domg grudes for the past. May God give you peace.

  • sheron adams

    FOREIGNID: 16165
    I applaud Katrina Browne and the Dewolf family for their courage. Recently my courage has been centered around; reaching deep within myself to sift through the slave schedules looking for the people who owned my paternal great grand mother.
    I have learned that I have to question the abolitionist movement. I have learned that it is unlikely that this evil didn’t taint every white person during the time of the slave trade in some way shape or form. I have learned an additional definition for institutionalized racism.
    I hope that it is possible for white America to realize, accept and understand, even if they fail to see how they have personally benefited, how these activities to amass such unprecedented wealth are an abomination on humanity. An abomination that continues to haunt Black Americans.

  • Lannie Walker,Sr

    FOREIGNID: 16166
    This film was one of the most excessive displays of self flagellation that I have ever seen. I treat every individual as I would like for them to treat me. That said, slavery was a fixture in almost every ancient society (and still exists today). Every one of my gr gr grandfathers owned slaves but I am here to tell you that ALL of their guild vis a vis slavery and everything else went to the grave with them. I accept NONE of it. As
    others have said, if there had not been slavery, there would have been no blacks in this country, so bad then led to good now. That is the way life works much of the time. Many slaves went back to Africa and settled in Liberia and look what a mess that they made of that venture. Look at EVERY black nation in Africa today.
    They are all messed up in every way. If I were black, I would be thankful that I didn’t live in Somalia or whatever. Whites have to go over there and set up aid organizations to help the blacks and THEY (over there) seem grateful. They should
    have been doing all this for themselves. I don’t know what the black’s problems are
    but I bitterly resent them trying to lay blame on current America for what happened to their ancestors. The Jews are trying to make us feel guilty vis a vis the holocaust and I accept none of that either. The whole idea of succeeding generations being blamed for the sins of their fathers is stupid and irrational.
    I notice that few blacks want to escape our “persecution” and migrate to
    Africa either. Finally, that video was just an attempt to make a buck and get
    attention, in my opinion.

  • Lannie Walker,Sr

    FOREIGNID: 16167
    This film was one of the most excessive displays of self flagellation that I have ever seen. I treat every individual as I would like for them to treat me. That said, slavery was a fixture in almost every ancient society (and still exists today). Every one of my gr gr grandfathers owned slaves but I am here to tell you that ALL of their guild vis a vis slavery and everything else went to the grave with them. I accept NONE of it. As
    others have said, if there had not been slavery, there would have been no blacks in this country, so bad then led to good now. That is the way life works much of the time. Many slaves went back to Africa and settled in Liberia and look what a mess that they made of that venture. Look at EVERY black nation in Africa today.
    They are all messed up in every way. If I were black, I would be thankful that I didn’t live in Somalia or whatever. Whites have to go over there and set up aid organizations to help the blacks and THEY (over there) seem grateful. They should
    have been doing all this for themselves. I don’t know what the black’s problems are
    but I bitterly resent them trying to lay blame on current America for what happened to their ancestors. The Jews are trying to make us feel guilty vis a vis the holocaust and I accept none of that either. The whole idea of succeeding generations being blamed for the sins of their fathers is stupid and irrational.
    I notice that few blacks want to escape our “persecution” and migrate to
    Africa either. Finally, that video was just an attempt to make a buck and get
    attention, in my opinion.

  • Paulette Oliver

    FOREIGNID: 16168
    I just wanted to say that, I appreciated the attempt to start closing gaps between the races. I’m an african american with cuban background, who enjoyed the documentary. In the future I would like to be informed of any bills that may come up for vote concerning bridging the gaps…Thnx

  • Lea L. Soto

    FOREIGNID: 16169
    I totally agree with Kevin. I can not believe that Mr. James DeWolfe never heard of any kind of slavery. Especially in the months of black history. So are you telling me Mr. DeWolfe that you have no ideal who Martin Luther King is because it is consider a holiday and evry school speaks of Martin Luther King and what he faught for FREEDOM! FOR BLACK AMERICANS I was not born yesterday Mr. Dewolfe please give me break. Find forgiveness in yourself, stop feeling guilty and stop lieing to the world! I never heard of such a thing. It is mind bothering.

  • Joan Price

    FOREIGNID: 16170
    Total admiration for the members of the DeWolf lagacy to do this work…
    With that said, I want to say that slavery underlies our entire consumer life — I don’t relate to the history of the East Coast but I certainly do relate to “manifest destiny” as it was forced into the west, the enslavement of Indian peoples from north to south into south america –for gold, silver, etc. for an elite lifestyle still going on today.
    And it is just plain as day, the earth itself is our slave. How many of us of any race or gender, deeply realize how we take for granted the right to own and profit by any living thing. Water, air, land — to rape at will and profit by. Capitalism at the point of a gun.
    Invisibility began with the “right to make a profit” instituted in the European rise to power– and all races were enslaved and divided from one another.
    We have a long ways to go.
    But then again, my gratitude to the Civil Rights movement, a far greater legacy in this nation than the taking ownership of Grandmother Moon by planting the flag on her in front of the entire world using the minerals of her body, the furnaces of the manufacturers, the transport of the rails and so on to accomplish an twisted assumption of elitism that has yet to be brought out of the invisable barriers we live in each and every moment.

  • Paulette Oliver

    FOREIGNID: 16171
    Also, to Mr. Dewolf Perrry. I don’t think that just the lower class should be considered for reperations, iff any are forthcoming. This country was built on the backs of all slaves, and all descendents are mistreated equally.

  • James DeWolf Perry

    FOREIGNID: 16172
    Lea, I haven’t said that I wasn’t familiar with American slavery prior to the filming of the documentary.
    What Kevin and I were discussing is the fact that there are certain basic aspects of that history which several other family members in the film were not aware of, and which many Americans are still not aware of.
    The role of the North in slavery and the slave trade, for instance, or the extent to which the impact of slavery lingers in our society today, are topics which are taught in some schools now, but not in most, and were rarely taught to older Americans when they were in school.

  • James DeWolf Perry

    FOREIGNID: 16173
    With respect, Paulette, I’m not convinced that all descendants of slaves are equally mistreated today.
    While it’s true that all Americans who are perceived as being black are subjected to much the same treatment on account of race, there are significant differences when it comes to class or social status. Much of the focus of the reparations movement, meanwhile, isn’t on compensation for that sort of treatment, but rather to account for the dramatic differences in education, jobs, wealth, and so forth between blacks and whites, on average. There’s a big difference between any of my black Harvard classmates, for instance, and one of the people whom Ogletree refers to as the “bottom-stuck.” I also don’t hear Ogletree suggesting that he, himself, should receive reparations, and I think there’s a good reason for that.

  • MaryM

    FOREIGNID: 16174
    Dear Katrina,
    Perhaps there is a Third Way. Blessings to you, your family, and our human family. Thank you for the compelling documentary.

  • Paulette Oliver

    FOREIGNID: 16175
    Although, understood and appreciated. When Tiger Woods tried to acknowledge all of his ancestry not just his blackness.. He was made to realize at the country club that he was still just a nigger. I think the same is true for all blacks regardless of class.. Although handled differently, discrimination is the same for us all… In my experience anyhow.

  • Dee Hart

    FOREIGNID: 16176
    Mr. DeWolfe Perry:
    Racism an class distinction are still with us. Lets see how fast the Federal Government will run to help the people of the Mid West flood vs. the Katrina victims in New Orleans.
    That is a prime example of race & class discrimation. I live in New England and still the problems. Most Northerners feel that they did their part in stopping slavery by having ancestors that fought in the civil war. The fight for equality and “RESPECT” has yet to be won.
    When will people realize that “RESPECT” is what African-Americans and Native Americans and all people want an deserve.
    I would also like to know if the Lyon House Museum has included any information on the DeWolfe being slave traders to their exhibits? As to the statement in the film regarding schools not really covering the informatin on the slave trade and slavery more throughly, look at who writes the history books most of them are done by Whites. It has only been recently that schools have even covered that the US falsely imprisioned Japanese Americans during WWII.
    Our country needs to learn “RESPECT” for all them maybe we can all heal.

  • Jonathan Taylor

    FOREIGNID: 16177
    I am an African American mixed with Native American, who is in seek of my ancestral heritage. The most I can piece together is that we started in the south and ended up in the north. I can only imagine why that is, but lack of records and the passing of the elderly, has left that question open. I could only imagine why most of the elders in my family would not even talk about what they had been through. And I feel the pain on their hearts for having to die without any post traumatic stress disorder treatments or hope that their children would not have to endure as they did. So Katrina, it is a blessing in itself to be able to have records and documents to look up to see who your ancestors are, and what they did.
    I do not expect any white person to feel guilty or apologize for any of their ancestors’ mistakes. (Acknowledgement of the truth will always set you free). I would only hope that they can look beyond their own stereotypes of African Americans (which were passed to them from things they witnessed as children) and not be on the offensive all the time. There was a point in my life where I felt I had no choice but to get a piece of the American pie the best way I knew how. I went to college, and others decide to horrific things, however from their viewpoint “why else should they care, what do they have to lose.” This is a mentality that the enslaving process has left with some educated and non educated African Americans. Imagine having to tell your children the accomplishments your parents and grand parents made while being enslaved, freed, enslaved and in today’s terms discriminated against. To be given freedom in America in 1865 only to still be fighting for freedom rights in 1965 and for the first time integrating a high school prom in Georgia in 2007, etc… I have tried to ignore it and move on but I personally get attacked by racism a lot, sometimes more subtle than others. I only wish the best for my children, so I try to tell them the truth early enough so they can build the strength at an early age to face the inevitable that my ancestors did not warn me about because of the shame, guilt, embarrassment, PTSD etc…
    There should be more people willing to do the research of their family history and understand why they have the privileges that they have, whether fortunate or less fortunate. As some may say they worked hard to get what they have, and believe me they probably have, however, I can work just as hard and receive significantly less results. Take a look at healthcare, education, mortgages, communities, and the Forbes billionaires list and know too that we would like a shot at the equal opportunity of the “American Dream.” How many African Americans really deserve to be on the Forbes billionaires list? After all, the stop light, cotton gin, and other major inventions where invented by African Americans. How much has really been stolen from Native Americans and African Americans? I would have to say “ALL.” In a sense the American dream has been transformed to mean that the powerful gain their wealth from the less powerful and the unfortunate. For instance, we get a high interest rate on a $120,000 home for a 30 year note and yet the well off can pay for a car worth $300,000 with a small interest rate over a 4 year period. Let’s open the door America and imagine what can be accomplished together as one in a “Perfect Union”. Once this door is opened, I hope and only hope that the same individuals that are having difficulties dealing with the opened door, are able to have the courage to face their ancestral demons and cast them out in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. God Bless you and thank you Ms. Browne for having the courage and audacity to care as much as I do. I do have two questions for you. Are the other 191 descendants in your family being more optimistic of your approach for reconciliations and reparations? What are many whites scared of when having this conversation?

  • James DeWolf Perry

    FOREIGNID: 16178
    In response to a question, Linden Place, the Bristol mansion featured in the film, has now welcomed us with open arms. They are devoting attention to slavery and the Bristol slave trade, and they were the first location to sign up to host Tom’s book tour.

  • Tacitus

    FOREIGNID: 16179
    If all black Americans are to be referred to as “African Americans” then shouldn’t whites be called “European Americans”? I suggest that we all be Americans first and drop this hyphenated nonsense. It’s a paradigm of sorts to see racism as a one way street. Anyone who considers themselves African and justifies their own racism on distant slavery should emmigrate to Africa.

  • Steven Finnegan

    FOREIGNID: 16180
    I watched the show and found it to be a disturbing show of self flagelation, I felt like this was being used as a cheap way to absolve themselves of some self imagined guilt. As for the issue of slavery/racism in this country that is an issue that will have to be discussed no matter how painful the subject, the problem is I fear never going to go away as some will always find the outcome not to their liking. We should also be discussing the slaughter of the American Indians as well, this is also a dark stain on our history.

  • Page Ogden

    FOREIGNID: 16181
    You may use HTML tags for style and links. As a decendant of slave “owners”, (emphasis that owning a person is impossible) on both sides of my family, I welcome the discussion of the tragic legacy slavery has left us all. I was touched by the final reaction of the residents of Bristol. Can you imagine that level of healing for us as a county?

  • Pat Ballard

    FOREIGNID: 16182
    Reparations can only have generational meaning within the context of those offended by those who offended them. And the definintion of “offended” vs “offender” really means “who won the war”; for it is always the victor who writes history. Once the water breaks and the child is born, he is free of the sins (if any) of his father. In any other context, reparations is another form of “gimmee” and more “food stamp licking.” The word “slavery” is relevant. It was until only a couple of hundred years ago a form of civil society for thousands of years. It was only when it became obvious that machines could work better economically than slaves that the concept of human ownership became dated. A better definition of modern day “slavery” is government dictatated economic relationships wherein one works and someone else profits from that work. In the future the concept of dominance of human beings over others will be dictated by those with intelligence and cognitive superiority. Everyone else will be a “slave” to those that possess more of these attributes. Mother Nature will rule in this regard without any “guilt.”

  • Juanita gore thomas

    FOREIGNID: 16183
    I’m overwhelmed to know that there are some Anglo-Saxons that are willing to admit that their ancestors owe a great deal to the Indigenous People and the Afrikans that they enslaved. The missing information should be in the history books. The history of this country must be talked about before this country can move on in a positive direction and each individual can do what the CREATOR put us here for. The day the world admits that Jesus The Christ is BLACK, this goal will be complete. All most people want is to be left alone to live their lives in peace.

  • Tori Lynn

    FOREIGNID: 16184
    This was the most moving documentary that I have ever witness. I commend the members of the DeWolf family for having the courage to confront their evil legacy with hopes to purge them from the heavy emotional burden that this knowledge will most definitely cause them!
    PBS, as usual, is at the forefront of the expansion of the mind and the human spirit. Kudos to you for presenting this material. It is so long overdue. Even though we may have a few naysayers who could never accept responsibility the main point is to elevate our minds especially in this most important election year. This documentary was right on time!

  • Tori Lynn

    FOREIGNID: 16185
    This comment has been removed by the moderator.

  • Desiree Johnson

    FOREIGNID: 16186
    I also thought the documentary was brave, powerful, and important to our general discussion on race in America. As black female who fought my way out of the legacy of being born black and poor in America, It bothers me that whenever a discussion on slavery is initiated, I hear this loud “shout out” from many whites who seem to think the goal of most blacks is to induce white guilt or blame. I really would like all people to acknowledge and to some degree understand that the effects of slavery linger to this day. To understand that not every poor black family is in this predicament simply because they’re lazy; many struggle every day to get past the effects of generations of oppression, poor educational opportunities, low expectations; and subtle prejudices that saturate our educational, religious, political, medical, and legal systems. We don’t want a free ride, just a decent chance.

  • Lannie Walker,Sr

    FOREIGNID: 16187
    This film was one of the most excessive displays of self flagellation that I have ever seen. I treat every individual as I would like for them to treat me. That said, slavery was a fixture in almost every ancient society (and still exists today). Every one of my gr gr grandfathers owned slaves but I am here to tell you that ALL of their guild vis a vis slavery and everything else went to the grave with them. I accept NONE of it. As
    others have said, if there had not been slavery, there would have been no blacks in this country, so bad then led to good now. That is the way life works much of the time. Many slaves went back to Africa and settled in Liberia and look what a mess that they made of that venture. Look at EVERY black nation in Africa today.
    They are all messed up in every way. If I were black, I would be thankful that I didn’t live in Somalia or whatever. Whites have to go over there and set up aid organizations to help the blacks and THEY (over there) seem grateful. They should
    have been doing all this for themselves. I don’t know what the black’s problems are
    but I bitterly resent them trying to lay blame on current America for what happened to their ancestors. The Jews are trying to make us feel guilty vis a vis the holocaust and I accept none of that either. The whole idea of succeeding generations being blamed for the sins of their fathers is stupid and irrational.
    I notice that few blacks want to escape our “persecution” and migrate to
    Africa either. Finally, that video was just an attempt to make a buck and get
    attention, in my opinion.

  • Elizabeth

    FOREIGNID: 16188
    This was a great documentary. It’s nice to hear the real truth about this country’s history. The school books seem to blot out alot of unpleasant truths. The real truth is that the English stole this land from the Native Americans, made the blacks work the land for free, and continue to use immigrants and minorities to do all the hard labor.

  • Elizabeth

    FOREIGNID: 16189
    This was a great documentary. It’s nice to hear the real truth about this country’s history. The school books seem to blot out alot of unpleasant truths. The real truth is that the English stole this land from the Native Americans, made the blacks work the land for free, and continue to use immigrants and minorities to do all the hard labor.

  • Joe Patterson

    FOREIGNID: 16190
    This is a very powerful film that brings up a full of range of emotions.
    Very informative a thought provoking. I learned a great deal about a history of slavery in the North that I was not aware of. The perspective of a white American filmaker and her family is very interesting. A film that all should see.

  • Your Conscience

    FOREIGNID: 16191
    At the foundation of slavery was the simple premise, White are superior to Blacks. Therefore, Blacks are inferior
    American wealth and social structure was built on this same premise.
    Therefore, if you were born White in America (no matter when your ancestors got here), you benefitted from the effects of slavery. It doesn’t matter if its your fault or not that slavery existed….but it is unjust to those that don’t have any benefit because they weren’t born with the favored color of skin.
    The only thing to do now is to seek to change the system to allow access to every benefit by everyone regardless of skin color, race or creed.

  • Your Conscience

    FOREIGNID: 16192
    Does the fact that Africans sold other Africans into slavery make it alright for generations of White americans to stigmatize a race of people as inferior?–Of course not!
    The only reason you bring up this fact is to excuse the behavior of white slave traders from their evil, dehumanizing and ugly misdeeds. STOP IT, people! Shame on you!
    It is what it is, EVIL, UGLY AND DEHUMANIZING. Stop trying to justify it.
    Africans chiefs sold other africans. So What!
    Blacks in america owned other Blacks. So What!
    It is what it is. All slavery is evil, dehumanizing and ugly.
    Can either of those African chiefs or Blacks Slaveowners have had the same advantages in a systemically racist American society as whites have — I think not.
    There are unique benefits in America from having white skin, there are priviliedges that even now are taken for granted. You see, White priviledge EVEN means that you have the luxury of not having to realize that you have it.

  • Julie

    FOREIGNID: 16193
    The premise for slavery in America (different slavery situations have had different premises) was financial. Slaughter of Native Americans was financial. The comments made on these posts prove to me beyond a doubt the slave mentality still exists today. Whenever you can dismiss a film trying to put some context into the racial issues of America, (by saying, it’s the past forget about it, I wasn’t here, I don’t benefit from slavery……….) by not acknowleging our entire economy did and still benefits from the free labor, be it Native American, African American, Asian America……slavery, it reverberates through these cultures today and probably will forever throughout generations. Yes, African Americans held slaves, Native Americans participated in the slaughter of their own people, self-deprication has often been documented.
    I can tell you how slavery has affected my family and will continue to affect it. I am of African, European, and Native American ancestors. Because of the stigma of race mixing in America my family has no written documentation of where we came from or who we are. Word of mouth history gave us our racial identification, a white great grandmother, an African great grandfather, a Native American great-grandfather on my mothers side who were northerners. The southerners were much more secretive. On my dad’s side, I had a Native American and African grandfather and a white looking grandmother who we were not allowed to ask how she got white?
    I knew from birth I was a black American and later an African American. In the 70′s “black revolutionaries” taught young blacks the real American history and we were furious because of the deceit. I don’t know if this deceit will ever be completely overcome. I believe the DeWolf’s are trying to address this deceit and for those of you not interested, be quiet and get on some other website.
    I have since learned to come to terms with who I am but I still desire to know my ancestors history to tell my children and grandchildren, and this is true throughout America. If you know your ancestry and are not interested it’s okay, but if, because of fear of someone elses racial attitudes, your ancestry was hidden, you do care.
    My grandfather served in WWI, my uncle served in WWII, and my son served in Desert Storm. We love this country, but discussing how to make it better is what makes it so special.

  • Patricia

    FOREIGNID: 16194
    I feel that the time for truth and reconciliation for this “unspeakable crime” is long past us. Attempts to relive the past and find some sort of comprehensible answers makes this issue more painful and this national disgrace heavier to bare. The continual reminder that the criminals of the “slave trade” were never punished yet florished and their heirs inherited unimpeded all the harvest of that bounty serve no one well. This younger generation of Americans who have thus far demonstrated their unwillingness to further these racials divides perhaps will seek another route in bringing comfort to a nation and its people who are exhausted from carrying this guilt.

  • William C Ramsey

    FOREIGNID: 16195
    Just a thought regarding the film last evening. Yes it was quite eye-opening in the extent of the benefit garnered by the communities at large.[ie. The production of all the supplies to keep the enterprise going. From shackles to pitch and tar, etc] Clearly many many people lent a hand to perpetuating the suffering and profited as such. It was the kind of experience one gets if you visit Brookgreen Gardens below Myrtle Beach SC.
    The Gardens are lovely ,but if you walk the old rice field overlook near the Wall Lowcountry Center you hear a story being told from the voices of the workers who lived and died constructing those fields. And even more profound is a visit to the Center itself where if you look closely at the floor you will notice you are standing on a composite of aerial photos of all the Waccamaw river basin and contributaries from the NC state line down to below Georgetown. Literally thousands and thousands of acres and all quilted with the thousands and thousands of the still visible today rice fields where in the life span of the slave working them might have been 2 years if they made it that long.And that is only one estuary in the Southern Lowcountry stretching from NC to Louisiana.
    Although history is one of my focuses, I just never got the magnitude of the suffering and misery incumbent with whole slavery issue until standing on that floor and realizing the scope of what was laid out before me.
    My point is this. As human beings sometimes something has to come along to push us off zero. I don’t care, Northern or Southern, White or Black, Muslim, Christian or Jew and you can go on with whatever political ,religious, national, historical divide you wish to assign. This feature has brought us to the place again where we must ask ourselves individually’ Wherein lies my own integrity? Do I keep my peace with every new example of repression I witness regardless of it’s seeming innocence? Or do I speak out at the real risk loss of my security, be it financial, social or even physical? The post I’ve seen here lead me to believe many of us need more wakeups like the POV.

  • Patsy Smith

    FOREIGNID: 16196
    Please comment on your views of ‘white privilege’ before this journey began and contrast them with your views after learning the impact of the slave trade on your pathway to success.

  • JoEllen

    FOREIGNID: 16197
    You may use HTML tags for style and links.
    It moved me to tears.
    Lincoln, Nebraska

  • Viniece

    FOREIGNID: 16198
    Ms. Browne and the Dewolf family, I want to thank you for your honesty and courage in the making of this film. I am glad you made this film and hopefully this can start a real and open dialogue about race relations in this country. Do not dwell to hard on the woman in the film that refused to shake your relative’s hand….the woman was probably shocked that you all were there and a little bit upset that her chance to reconnect with her African roots was being interrupted. I mean what was she suppose to say? It was all probably new to her too and she was not into having an “Oprah moment”.
    However I am saddened by a lot of the comments being made here. To those of you who are white and think that because your family did not directly own African slaves that you did not benefit from slavery you are wrong.
    Slavery and psuedo-slavery continued upto the Civil Rights Act of 1964. So Black people have really only been free and full citizens for just about 44 years. In the meantime, white people were given every advantage while Black people suffered under extreme racism & oppression ie Jim Crow, segragation, poll tax, grandfather clause…/the rise of the KKK. You forefathers got access to jobs, loans and better housing as well as (MOST IMPORTANTLY) protection of your civil rights. Black people paid taxes and fought in all of Americas wars from the American Revolution to Vietnam and were not considered to be humans, to have rights that any white man had to respect and no representation/protection under US law.
    When I think of my great grandfather being born into a sharecropping family in the South and orphaned at very young age because both of his parents died due to yellow fever. Yet he made it, suffered extreme racism for example he obtained a job with Commonwealth Edison back in the day and the new white, probably irish racist immigrants, refused to work alongside him (riding in the truck) because he was Black. So the supervisor stuck my great-grandfather in the lockerroom where the white men would then accuse him of being lazy. (I never understood why the irish hate Black people so much when they too suffered at the hands of the british.)
    Through all of this ill-treatment he bought property, owned several businesses and managed to send my grandmother to private school and there is a park named after him in Kankakee, IL. My great grandfather was great man. No white people and/or this country ever gave my family any handouts as white people like to say all of the time, my people were only given a hardtime.
    To Melissa, the reason Black people do not bring up slavery and segregation, simply black people do not know a lot of their history because Black families/elders did not talk of this painful period. I am just finding out a lot family history myself by pressing the older folks to talk about our family history. I just found out my other grandfather is in the Guinness Book of World Records.
    Yes, Africans had slaves but their slave system was completely different from the European Slave System. Their slave system was more of a servitude system families were not broken up and the Africans educated their slaves/servants,etc…but trust me after watching this film, I want reparations from them too, whether monetary or an apology…
    In response to some other comments, yes African slaves were owned by free Blacks, Native Americans and whites in America because this was the system at that time but it was the US government that continued seek and use slave labor to build up America into what it is today. So the US does owe monetary reparations as well as psychotherapy to the descendants of African slaves.
    Hec, Black people did nothing to Japanese people but they were given a Presidential apology and reparations with my tax dollars when they were put into concentration camps here in the US. So what is right is right and fair is fair. You white people always talk about an honest days wage for an honest days work, my ancestors were never paid, never made whole. And it continued after slavery with sharecropping system, Jim Crow and out & out racism in the North.

  • Julie

    FOREIGNID: 16199
    I am black and not interested in white privilege. I intend to fight for every right I believe belongs to me and I will circumvent any “privilege” in my way. My concern is how my black son is treated by some, and I mean “some” white people in America, and without cause or reason. They don’t know him or what he has endured or how proud I am of what obstacles he has overcome and how decent and hardworking he is. They don’t know he has defended their freedom in this country with his life. Yet they grab their purses and their little children as they walk the sidewalk next to him. This is what still exists in America and the poor ladies aren’t even aware of what they do, or that I notice.

  • Lorene Webster

    FOREIGNID: 16200
    To: Katrina Brown
    You demonstrated strength of character, as well as courage, by publicly acknowledging your ancestor’s complicity in the slave trade. The program, “Trace of the Trade; A story of the Deep North” expressed not only empathy for the slaves, but, also regret for your family’s role in their suffering.
    Our family follows the high moral principle written in the Bible: “Do not avenge yourselves, beloved, but yield place to the wrath; for it is written; Vengence is mine; I will repay, says Jehovah. Therefore we rest our hope and confidence in God’s promise that the rulership of Christ Jesus over the earth, every vestige of man’s inhumanity to man will be abliterated from the restored paradise earth. It is our heartfelt desire that persons like you will enjoy the realization of this promise.
    Lorene Webster

  • ML Hayes

    FOREIGNID: 16201
    There are many instances of comment with reference to persons of various European decent who want to know why they should feel remorse, guilt or otherwise anxious about the inequitable history of their adopted homeland.
    Most claim to know that their genealogical time lines have relatively short roots in America which implies innocence in the prior facts. Perhaps, this answer will satisfy them of their present roles and responsibilities to their fellow citizens.
    As an American of African decent, the first thing I must ask you is if you people are even trying to understand the heritage to which you can attribute your present status? As reported by Mrs. Browne, the wealth created by the institution of slavery founded the nation and formed the bedrock of the economic opportunities that attracted your late coming ancestors decades after the practice of involuntary servitude was ceased. The history of peoples thrust together in such endeavors as nation building doesn’t simply end at some demarcation point. Though it may change focus such that what was of primary importance to an earlier generation might move to the background with a later one, rarely do the facts disappear altogether.
    The positions you take in these self-incriminating post are cowardly and hardly worthy of the pioneering legacy of this nation. If this accusation angers you, perhaps you should re-watch the documentary. You have missed the point of the lesson if you believe that the privilege you may enjoy today isn’t deeply rooted in a culture embedded in a tradition of racist bigotry.
    There are millions of men and women imprisoned in America by these kinds of biases. The walls of their prisons are composed of false perceptions based on fear. You are installing strong bars to cooperation. The gates of your consciousness are constructed of prejudice founded in ignorance. Your minds are locked into an inability to distinguish the depth of the historic greed from the continuing and persistent hypocrisy of present realities; where the inequality of employment rates along racial lines, attest to the failure of your social morality.
    There are millions of American of African decent who still suffer indignities at the hands of people who do not hire them, avoid them and refuse to socialize with them in any manner; especially any that would lead to their economic benefit. Is this an accurate description of you?
    What can you do is the next question that is most often posted.
    The answers are not as simple as 1,2,3. Yes, there surely are dangerous psychological fences that need to be torn down by Americans of African decent. However, the hope of our common heritage is that the cause for those obvious effects would be removed so that higher reasoning might take hold and our community thereby be finally healed. Would you make a lie of hope?
    The future is now. What you must do is, give hope a chance. This day’s opportunity isn’t simply economic, as in reparations. It is also not rudimentary, as in cutting an annual or quarterly check to your favorite non-profit with a valid 501-3c charter to serve some affiliated ailment whose roots are fed by the privileges of racial segregation.
    Our world faces new challenges and God in his wisdom created differences in peoples to accomplish his will on earth. What we should have learned is that the only thing new under the sun is understanding. Can you understand the origins of our commonality? If so, then you will not assume that you have no responsibility for righting the wrongs of the history of this experiment called democracy some and the United States of America by others. If you will, let fear and loathing fester and prosper. At some point, you will be held responsible by some future generation, just as were the DeWolfs.

  • Kevin Jackson

    FOREIGNID: 16202
    This is why i believe that reparations should not be forthcoming, because what Mr Ogletree believes is reparations is not reparations, it is a handout to the poor. so why not give it to all poor people regardless of whether their ancestors were slaves, since we are not actually going to be repaying the ancestors of slaves, only poor ones. my ancestors were as much a slave as anyone elses, why wouldnt i receive a reparations check?
    so, are you saying sir, that only poor blacks are truly the victims of slavery while those of us who have become successful have no pay or suffering or issues around enslavement?
    it is a ridiculous argument to have if we are not dealing with slavery, but payments to poor blacks.

  • Julie

    FOREIGNID: 16203
    There have been many reparations paid in America by a different name, like the “New Deal”, “Food Stamps”, “Farm Assistance”, Tax Rebates, etc. This is nothing new in America. It only causes “agitation” when it is coupled with slavery.

  • J Howard

    FOREIGNID: 16204
    Reparations.. I say go for it. I say we set up a Guilt fund and anyone that is so guilty or has pent up White Guilt should give to this fund. I bet it makes about $10. A report released said US citizens made over $300 billion in contributions to charitable organizations last year. Lets see how well this :White Guilt Fund does. I say Americans have given enough to slave descendants. If you force them to pay more, how many blacks in Africa will get contributions next year?

  • Karen Rogers

    FOREIGNID: 16205
    Big thanks for this program. I appreciated the courage and honesty all participants showed in grappling with this charged, thorny, challenging issue.
    As a middle-aged white woman who was born & raised in East LA, attended college in Washington DC in the late ’60s, worked in Dr. King’s Poor People’s Campaign and did community support during the riot following Dr. King’s assasination and the aftermath, I am deeply grateful to have the CONVERSATION ON RACE advanced by this program. During that time in college and beyond I spent over 5 years searching my soul trying to be as honest as possible in identifying elements of racism in my thoughts, feelings and behavior. It was a rigorous and very helpful exercise. What I came to realize was that I didn’t eliminate my race-triggered reactions–I continued to have thoughts, & feelings activated by noticing race–but many of those thoughts and feelings DID change as I paid attention to them and attempted to TAKE RESPONSIBILITY for my internal responses and my external behaviors.
    I currently work as a psychotherapist and have studied a field called Evolutionary Psychology–which basically studies how the human mind & brain evolved to support individual and group survival. I now believe that TRIBALISM IS UNIVERSAL–that it’s in our DNA. BELONGING to a group is deeply essential to us, and identifying our group as special and differentiating ourselves from others is universal. I don’t think we can elimate these things–BUT WE CAN TELL THE TRUTH ABOUT THEM. This is what is so frustrating to me–we have turned racism into such a morally reprehensible thing that none of us is comfortable owning that part of our humanity. HOW IN THE WORLD CAN WE GROW IF WE CAN’T TELL THE TRUTH ABOUT OURSELVES? How can we see that our actions and attitudes have an impact on others–how can we be interested and responsive to how we impact others if we can’t acknowledge these things? We have CONFUSED ACKNOWLEDGING these parts of us with CONDONING them. White America needs to atone for our history of racial crime. I see the first step as acknowledging these proclivaties in our daily lives.
    Thanks for taking a big step in encouraging us all to look in the mirror.

  • Katherine Williams

    FOREIGNID: 16206
    Interesting array of reactions. Just a few more thoughts. Once again I urge whoever is skilled at this (which I’m not) to create a website for ongoing dialogue and work. Malcolm X said that white people have to learn to love black people, not vice versa. Many people at the time took this as a statement of inequality. But as one black woman said in the film, she has to be in a minority almost all the time, and rub up against white culture, denying her very existence. She was suggesting white people need to structure in this experience of being in the minority in order to become sensitive to it. I think this is another way of saying what Malcolm X was trying to say. Regarding the experience of trying to reach out to black people and being initially rebuffed, I find this depends on the circumstances. Dealing with families who have been through unspeakable horror and deprivation, one can’t expect the same reception. I find sincerity and perseverence carries the day. Take the “I” out of it. Just be there and be open. Also there are regional differences in the temperature of the relations between the races. In a setting, where people of color are 45% of the population, such as in NYC, there is more after hours, leisure time integration. In a more uptight place, such as Oklahoma City, where I am now, integration takes a little more work. Finally, regarding reparations. I don’t believe anyone means from one set of individuals to another, rather as was suggested in the film a commission to decide the best way to spend the money, on those “stuck” on the bottom, or to Africa for HIV treatment and education and fallout such as AIDS orphans, or simply for better government, which is the key to resolving most of the horrible problems there. There are lots of constructive ways such funds could be used. And, yes, the tide is turning in that direction. Those who call it “liberal drivel” will be left by the wayside.

  • S.A. Attix

    FOREIGNID: 16207
    I came across similar Family History in moving to Hawaii-back in the late 80's. [Dillingham family]. My parents then experienced some very traumatic events (family karma?) RIGHT in the locations/on the aina where my ancestors had committed their acts.
    I subsequently was invited (ironically) to study the Yoruba & Condomble’ traditions in Honolulu and Phoenix, and was told the following by a Babalwao(Priest of Yoruba). There are three types of “Karma” one must deal with; What you do now, in this life. What you did in your own past lives. AND what your immediate Bloodline did. It’s not a “race” thing (per see…we’re all African…if you go back to the beginning)…(white and black)…although all whites in America are the heirs to the wealth built by free slave labor (a LOT of our wealth). If you personally, want to know what needs to be made right (what you must do to balance your Karma)… look to your own “Ancestors!” Know your people and their acts (good and bad). Many cultures look back 7 Generations.. and unfortunately… it’s no excuse if you choose to forget the history and think it’s all “over” now. The energy unleashed into the Universe will find a way to balance things… one way or another. Take my word for it!

  • Andre

    FOREIGNID: 16208
    I think the major issue with every program that looks at the Black experience with slavery ends in the 1800’s when slavery was officially abolished. And white folks say get over it already that was 300 years ago and I had nothing to do with that.
    I would like to say yes slavery was over 300 years ago officially but unofficially slavery in America has only been now going out of fashion. It was only 40 years ago that blacks and whites couldn’t use the same bathroom or able to use the same water fountain. One of the gentle men in the program said for himself that he still harbors some feeling from the segregationist era. They are still 20% of people that say they wouldn’t vote for a black president; a year ago nooses were hung in the south to intimidate black youth. Yes slavery is over but the mentality is still alive and kicking in 2008.
    I once felt that all white people were evil, but I moved to Ohio and then got 5 DWB (driving while black) in one year, once it was for speeding but he was unsure of how fast I was going and another I was not licensed driver even though my license was valid. But I have also met some genuine white people and no longer think that all whites are evil.
    I (speaking only for myself) don’t blame any white person alive now for slavery, do I still believe that many believe the same way their ancestors do yes and until they are no more nooses hung to scare kids and until I no longer get pulled over by the cops for no reason I will continue to believe that.

  • Karmy Mina

    FOREIGNID: 16209
    The true condition of the human heart has not changed since Adam in the majority. False acclamations of reform have only yielded more hurtful “façades” to the victims. Imperialism continues today as attested to by the many engagements of war today. There are a few who are aware of the problem of the human heart but are powerless to effect anything more than personal change resulting in personal freedom from guilt, though that only comes from spiritual assessment and shame.

  • R.George

    FOREIGNID: 16210
    As I watched your documentary, and realized that you were seeking and apologizing for a history that you had not created, my tears began to flow. In America I am the legal definition of a Black American. In doing some minor research into my own genealogy, I discovered that my Great-great Grandfather was Native American from the Susquehanna tribe. My Great-great Grandmother was an escaped Indian slave,from Virginia born in Mexico City, Mexico in the mid 1800s. Both escaped to Amherst, Mass. during the time of the abolitionist movement.
    Many of my descendants were the children of white enslavers and female Africans, also sold into enslavement.
    I believe that mankind was then and is now, standing in front of the chalkboard of the universe, trying repeatedly to grasp a key cosmic lesson, as the Teacher patiently and mercifully hopes we will learn.
    I believe that, through the understanding of human flaws, wisdom is gained, then hearts and minds can be healed.
    I personally think that asking this tainted & corrupt system to even consider reparation, is like asking pirates to to share their ill-gotten stolen treasure. Instead
    more barriers dividing race,religion & class need to be revealed,openly discussed and ultimately removed, so that the playing field is leveled and we can ALL be free.

  • pm

    FOREIGNID: 16211
    You will do nothing but create another injustice if you force those who were not guilty of the sin of slavery to pay for your family’s sins. There is no way to calculate something which is incalculable, which is the sins of one’s ancestors who were living in a different time without the advantage of our modern perspective. The only solution if to forgive and move on, not further punishment.


    FOREIGNID: 16212
    Why are so many people speaking so negatively, with hatred, anger and ignorance? Why are people saying that they don’t feel any guilt? I thought this documentary was about Katrina Brown ancestors and not so many of you individually. It’s as if so many people of this forum found themselves guilty of being a racist too. Ah, don’t talk tough or arrogant you do reverently fear GOD (The Creator Of Life) don’t you. I know that you know that He actually know what you truly feel and believe in your heart about other people. I bet all of those people who had lived their lives mistreating other people and whose spirit has now left this world are regretting their actions now! Will you be one of them too? Not me, I am currently listening to this teaching by Dr. Frederick K.C. Price titled “Race, Racism and Religion”. I’m determining to get all of this ugly filthy garbage out of me if it’s in me. Anyway I myself was horribly upset to learn how much involved the church was in this evil mistreatment of human beings. Aren’t You? Just imagine they baptized you first in the NAME OF THE FATHER, THE SON, AND THE HOLY SPIRIT, take your name give you another name and then put you on a big ship, chained by your feet and hands and off you go to a foreign land, different language, weather etc.etc.etc. Hmm by the way I honestly don’t think that it matters which race of people did what. What matters is that human beings mistreating other human beings in such a horrible way!
    Katrina Brown, Hurray for youJ Maybe PBS should air your documentary again during the fall so that more people will be at home to watch it. Katrina Brown I would like to also add that you pleased ALMIGHTY GOD without a doubt because of your zeal to try to right a wrong or heal some inner wounds. Although you are truly innocent Katrina your heart; through your documentary told the world that you were sorry! You must be a super kind personJ

  • R.George

    FOREIGNID: 16213
    Who are you to impose your will upon me ?
    Who lied to you and told you
    that you should be the rule, rather
    than the exception?
    Who are you to impose your will upon me ?
    You who ripped me from the forests,
    from the plains, from the deserts,
    from the songs of wild earthly creatures.
    Who are you to impose your will upon me ?
    You Faun, who deify yourselves with
    your documents, your gems belonging
    to the earth, your dwellings built
    on blood soaked land.
    Who are you to impose your will upon me?
    You, whose forefathers cried to the creator
    for freedom and a new way.Yet when your
    prayer is answered, you would
    oppress and enslave those He sent to free you.
    Who are you to impose your will upon me?
    You, who practice necrophilia with
    a toxic and oppressive system,
    then you utter salutations “peace
    my brothers snd sisters” prosperity.”
    Who are you to impose your will upon me?
    You self-aggrandizing adjudicators,
    who deem me primitive, though I
    reverenced this planet earth Earth, sacred,
    whole and abundant.
    Who are you to impose your will upon me?
    As though I, born a commodity,
    survivor of the tribalcide, the proletariat,
    am to live a contented dehumanized life,
    to fuel the insatiable monetary beast.
    Who are you to impose your will upon me?
    What would you have me to become? A mimic?
    To complement you
    and abase my heritage and self?
    Look back and study our ways.You Who
    Would Impose Their Will Upon Me, and
    remember the ancient oppressors a’fore you,
    how they did persecute me. For with my reward
    they did purchase their fatal end.
    Look back and study our ways, learn quickly…….
    You Who Would Impose Your Will Upon Me,
    for our mother is dying…. Who then will allow us to suckle?
    Will we ask the moon? Or perhaps another neighbor
    Mars,Jupiter? If we cannot share the breast of our
    own mother,we certainly won’t
    be able to suckle another.
    Look back and study our ways, You
    Who Would Impose Your Will Upon Me .
    Know that you could never create, as in
    the manner of Elohim…….better, no never……..
    c.1994 roberta george

  • Ron Brown

    FOREIGNID: 16214
    I found the film verry inlighting as well as educational and moving. I com-mend the family members that took the time to trace there family past. I feel that America has been heiling its self since the beganning of her engurey. We must all look at the hurt and pain from our owen indivisial state of mind. We can never erace the past, nor will we ever foeget, but we can forgive. Time heils all wounds. love for your brother well speed up the process. If you feel guilt help some one that needs help the best you can. Rememember this sham that america face was done by everyone whites in America and Blacks in Africa. We cannot change the past it has already been written. However, We can each make a difference in the presince and future. I would recommend having a second tripe. this time include a few open minded black Americans. Ms. Brown vew points was well spoken. however, I feel the vew points of a mixed group would make more people open up and allow everyone to feel comfortable. From a man of color who see’s no colour.

  • Larry Lind

    FOREIGNID: 16215
    MIRACLEMEU wrote, “Why are people saying that they don’t feel any guilt? I thought this documentary was about Katrina Brown ancestors and not so many of you individually. It’s as if so many people of this forum found themselves guilty of being a racist too.”
    Why should I feel guilty? Why should I feel guilt about something that happened hundreds of years ago by individuals who are long dead? Why should I feel guilty about my DNA characteristics that make me White (Caucasian)?
    I never owned a slave. I never beat up a black person; I never stole from a black person. I never killed a black person. I have never performed any negative deeds to a black person, so why should I feel guilty?
    I do not have White Guilt. I do not have White Shame. Yes, slavery happened and it was terrible. Millions of people suffered.
    Miralclemeu implies because I have no guilt and I haven’t been indoctrinated and brainwashed by modern universities that I am a racist. I am not a racist. I have a job in Human Resources that deals with Equal Opportunity and provide training and conflict resolution for racial manners. MM needs to stop being so prejudiced and assume that all white people who haven’t begged for forgiveness of their fathers sins are Racist.
    It is time to remember the past and move on. Those that are stuck in the past will never evolve into anything and will always find someone to blame for their own failures.
    Larry Lind

  • Lea L. Soto

    FOREIGNID: 16216
    I agree with Larry Lind and I am hispanic. Who is MIRACLEMEU to call those who are against this ridiculous film ignorant. We need to learn to be more open minded. I can not believe that James DeWolf Perry never heard of slavery. I can believe maybe that he never saw a book on slavery but to not know about slavery would be like him telling me he never knew who Martin Luther King was. We celebrate that day every year and even if you don’t celebrate it because you are a racist or for whatever reason, you see it on the television. This blog was create because every one is entitle to their own opinion and if you like the film great and if you didn’t fine, but it does not mean you are an ignorant person, guilty of being a racist because you did not like the film. Lord knows I am not a racist. I have family members who are black and I love everyone and can get along with anyone even ignorant people like MIRACLEMEU and James DeWolf Perry because we all have to learn to be honest and open minded. I am really offended by what MIRACLEMEU posted I think you need to review that film again with an open mind and realize that this film makes no since for a lot of people and many people’s view it was made out of pure guilt. I believe MIRACLEMEU you need to read what you posted again and apologize to everyone because ignorance is not a good thing to be called and assuming what you think people are it is even worst. I can say you are an ignorant person because of everything you posted only someone ignorant would say and judging others that is not Godly. You assume we are all racist because we were given the freedom to post how we felt about a film and did not understand why a lot of people were upset about a film who claims they never were taught about slavery (Give me a brake) that is ridiculous and if you don’t think that this would annoy a black person off well it annoyed me off and I am not black. I am very open to every ones opinion and yes it was a thought that Katrina felt would make a difference and I can see where she was coming from but to say some of the things that were said made people upset to do some of the things that were done in the film would make a lot of people upset. Maybe it was not Katrina’s intensions were, but it was filmed and you can not take it back because everyone who wrote in this blog were not in agreement with everything said and done. We also have the right to be upset and express why? And that right there MIRACLEMEU does not make us ignorant it gives us one of our rights (FREEDOM OF SPEECH!) I believe that Katrina should have made the film on behalf of her family to black slavery and not involve anyone else to do what she did then the film would have made more since because it would have been her apology to black slavery because she felt guilty of what her family gained from this horrible act. In doing so maybe white people who knew that they had also gained from black slavery would have also followed tha same step Katrina took. I respect those who enjoy the film and those who didn’t, but I don’t appreciate people calling other people ignorant because they did not like the film. This is why there is so much hate in this world because of the lack of respect some of us have for each other.
    edited by moderator for language

  • Larry Simmons

    FOREIGNID: 16217
    We don’t choose our parents or our ancestors.
    Yes, most blacks in this country are descended from ex-slaves and this
    country like other past empires was partially built upon slavery. Most people agree that slavery was horrendous, but wasn’t the extraordinary loss of lives
    and property during the civil war reparations enough? I think this show is almost counter-productive in it’s approach. A group of privileged, insulated white northeners is trying to feel better by sharing their guilt with every white person in this country.

  • James DeWolf Perry

    FOREIGNID: 16218
    Lea, I don’t know where you got the idea that I’d never heard of slavery, but it’s just not true. Other family members in the film do talk about not having been aware of certain basic facts, like the role of the North, but these facts are often not taught in schools, even today.
    I do support your right to disagree with the film, and especially with Katrina’s focus on feelings of guilt and the solutions she suggests to our society’s racial problems. All I can tell you is that I, for one, don’t have any guilt. But I do believe that the facts show that the legacy of slavery remains with us, and I would hope that anyone who realizes this would sense an obligation to work towards a solution. I don’t believe that Katrina made this film as an apology for something she didn’t do, but rather to help Americans to understand what they’ve benefited from, and what the consequences have been.
    Larry, I’d point out that the Civil War was not fought to end slavery, and so the terrible price paid by so many during that conflict could not amount to reparations for slavery — even if you believe that merely ending that evil institution could make up for it.

  • Robert Landers

    FOREIGNID: 16219
    Quite honestly I am appalled at the onslaught of false guilt this documentary attempts to sling on to the viewer. Okay, yes slavery is,was and will always be an atrocity and a “black eye” in our American history. However, with the opportunity that exists for all races in this country in the year 2008, I am just sick of trying to appease all of the people who continually push for reparations programs like this woman does. She is only adding to the perceived weakness and inferiority that todays blacks feel. Or rather choose to feel.Yes, we have racism. Part of healing though is not through her type of excercise. It begins with personal responsibilities. Those personal responsibilities cannot be accounted for after 200 plus years. We can however learn from the past. But my God let’s get off the pity pot and lets start to fill in the chips on our shoulders as a nation of Americans who I thought had backbones by now.

  • Madama Ambi

    FOREIGNID: 16220
    I find it interesting that so many people expect one documentary to be the definitive work on a huge, complex, controversial & explosive issue like slavery, responsibility, reparations. Or that some people dismiss Traces of the Trade because it hasn’t uncovered anything they didn’t already know, or because the people making it are so…well…white!
    The value of this film, for me, is that the filmmakers have undertaken a process of understanding their privilege and where it came from, and how to respond from their own shame, grief, and desire to do the right thing. Process is very little appreciated in American culture, seems to me, and maybe that’s because people don’t know what it looks like or how to hang in there when it gets unbearable and you have the choice of staying or taking in a 5-course, catered “slave luncheon.” So, Katrina Browne & family made a fine, fine film of their process, and Katrina’s willingness to narrate the unvarnished truth of their process was, I think, honest. Personally, I admire honest.
    When I watched the film I became aware of sharing some of the privilege and whiteness of the family members, and yet also how much I as a Jew relate to being, frequently, the only Jew in the room, never knowing how much of my learned social skills are unconscious assimilation of WASPy repression, or even where I belong with my hybridized identity. I’m pointing out the family’s white/WASPy behavior because I understand it…I think. What I think I understand is how polite and repressed it felt to me, and at the same time represents in our culture good manners in many halls of power.
    When I imagined myself trekking along with the family, I wondered how it was that they did not break down and wail with grief and horror, why they did not beat their heads against those walls in Ghana…because I would have lost it…I would have been a shrieking demon of grief and shame and uncontainable horror. When I visited Thomas Jefferson’s own slave quarters at Monticello, I had to excuse myself from the tour group or I would have lost my WASPy composure.
    Am I indulgent? Overly sensitive? Crazy? I don’t know.

  • Vicki

    FOREIGNID: 16221
    Thank you so very much for this wonderful documentary. Here in Dallas, there is a yearly event called The Dinner Table. Any one can participate by hosting a dinner event at their home or attending at a dinner sponsored by a neighborhood organization or church. Participants discuss those hard sensitive topics that people shy away from with the purpose of reaching racial understanding and enlightenment. I attended this year’s event at a Methodist Church in a Dallas suburb. I am African American and was hoping to hear opinions that would be different than those expressed in my own neighborhood. My table was composed of an Asian woman, a young and an older white man, a young white woman, and a black and white lesbian couple. Because our ages spanned from late 20′s to early 60′s, we found that our personal experiences growing up shaped our racial attitudes. There was a moment when I connected with the 60 year old white gentleman. He came of age in the South during the late 50′s and ’60′s, as I did, and held the racial attitudes of his day towards black people. He was proud that he had changed over the years but didn’t understand why I held any lingering anger. Why did it appear that I was just as angry at age 56 in 2008 as I was (more justified) at age 17 in 1969? I explained, but he now wanted to know, “What do you want now?” I replied, “an apology. An official, USA government sanctioned apology that recognizes and accepts that slavery was incompatible with the stated ideals of the Constituion. And, I want reconciliation as they did it in South Africa. That country recognized that you can’t jump from a government sanctioned racist society to a democratic society without an effort at reconciliation”. This gentle man then took my hand, looked me in the eyes and said, ” Vicki, I am sorry. I am sorry for the way that your country has treated you and your family, and I am sorry for not recognizing sooner that by turning a blind eye and accepting the way things are, that I contributed to your indignity. Of course, we both cried and held hands the rest of the evening. It was a wonderful experience and I would encourage other cities to host their own event.

  • Lea L. Soto

    FOREIGNID: 16222
    I don’t believe that Katrina made this film as an apology for something she didn’t do, but rather to help Americans to understand what they’ve benefited from, and what the consequences have been.
    This was posted by Mr. De Wolfe and do believe that Katrina was trying to apologize for she had stated when she was at the church that there are probably a lot of whites who think why should I feel guilty about something I didn’t do. Why would Katrina say this because she felt guilty. There was also a woman who I believed had ask Katrina if she was ashamed for what had happened and also the part when the Africans were cleaning there souls and Katrina stated if he could do the same for them. This was all because she felt shame and needed to feel free from the past.
    I believe that Vicki had a wonderful experience, but it is something that came naturally not forced and if you (DEWOLFE) feel that this film was not trying to make an apology you really are a close minded individual because it was plain to see that she was feeling remorse and I think that was what was missing from this film a sincere apology. It did not have to come from all whites just from Katrina and her family who were present. She would have been a great example to what the world should do. I know she spoke of change, but change can begin with a simple apology and a form of ACTION. Action will never be because our world is full of racist people that would be like you telling me there will never be another war. You and I know that will only happen when we all go to Heaven.

  • Danie

    FOREIGNID: 16223
    White Guilt. Reparations. Such hot topics. Even some of the postings of those who state that their ancestors were not slave owners or traders and thus they have nothing to feel guilty about, have defensive tones. The fact is that being white in America conveys a privilege that though subtle is pervasive. I am a 32 year old black woman who went to school in New York and on to the Ivy League for college and graduate school. In elementary school, I had friends who could not come to my birthday parties because I am black. My brother had friends whose parents called him nigger. My senior year in high school, white students started complaining about how unfair it is that us black students will get into schools because of affirmative action. (Mind you that this was a high honors class and the black students in the class were all A students with good SAT scores.) The assumption being that just by virtue of being white they deserved to get into a good college and that by virtue of us being black, we must not have had the grades to get into a good college. Do you know how hurtful it is as a young person to discover that the girls you talked to and smiled with for 3 and ½ years think that they are and deserve better than you? It was a rude awakening for me. In elementary school, prejudice actions came from the parents, now it was from my peers. During final exam time my first semester in college, there was a spate of attacks on black students around campus. Students were spit on, nigger was written on doors, a bucket of water dropped on a student’s head with such force she ended up in the hospital with a concussion. Black students had to study while fearful, walking to the library in groups, while white students studied in peace. There have been other incidents along the way, but I was raised with love and a sense of self-worth and so am able to see the incidents for what they are: as evidence of the insecurities of the perpetrator and not a reflection of me.
    White Americans are privileged because they don’t have to deal with all this while growing up on top of the growing pains common to all. White Americans are “real Americans”. A white person who is a first generation American is seen as “more American” than a person of color whose family has been here for generations. White Americans who wish to maintain the status quo are viewed as “patriotic”. While a person calling for justice is viewed as unpatriotic. Why is it unpatriotic to ask for your country to live up to moral standards?
    As for White Guilt- what use is guilt if actions don’t change? Honesty, respectful discourse, and empathy are what’s needed, that, and a desire to add to wellbeing in the world rather than suffering. When you know better, do better. Tuck away the defensiveness and condescension. Join like minds and work for change.
    As for reparations, what is needed is investment in the people of this country, true investment in our social fabric not a piecemeal effort that benefits a few and leaves the majority out. There is no reason why our public school system should have such inequalities. There is no reason for the poor state of our healthcare system. America needs universal healthcare, a strong public education system and affordable housing for all. As for those who worry about our tax dollars, the real hand outs go to the military and big businesses. The mountain of debt we are piling up on ourselves from the Bush administration (Remember there was actually a budget surplus when his administration entered office!) will only get unbearably worse if we do not have an educated, healthy and secure workforce capable of competing on the world stage.
    On a blog posted on the Nation website, Peter Rothberg stated: “A new report from the National Priorities Project shows that almost 40 cents of every tax dollar that will be paid this year (2007) will be spent on past and present military projects!” (From a posting byPeter Rothberg at
    NPP website:

  • Lea L. Soto

    FOREIGNID: 16224
    Posted by Mr. DeWolfe
    Please don’t leap to criticize those of my distant cousins who weren’t aware of the full history of slavery and the slave trade. It may be history that is found in some seventh-grade textbooks, but it was not found in the typical textbook when most of them were growing up. (Tom, for instance, writes powerfully in his book about not having been previously exposed to this history.) In fact, I can attest, having spoken with secondary-school teachers and with high school and college classes about this topic, that many students even today are still not being taught the basics of these aspects of our history.
    I apologize because I thought you spoke of yourself but you do defend the fact that people are not aware of this and again I say that would be like saying you did not know Martin Luther King and every schools talk about Martin Luther King who fought to free black from being slaves and being discriminated. I repeat it is on everyones calender Martin Luther King just like they have Columbus Day (It should not be a holiday or celebrated) but it is and if you read into your history it also speaks of slavery when Columbus discovered america. Columbus was a bad man, but anyways that is not the point I am trying to make.
    My point is are you telling me that you have relative that do not have a calender and do not know who Martin Luther King is? What kind of a school do they go to KKK University? Every one knows about slavery. Even the KKK’s know who Martin Luther King is.

  • Teressa

    FOREIGNID: 16225
    I found this film to be inspiring and troubling. Troubling because it challenges the rule of not talking about unpleasant subjects. Isn’t it really about time we started talking about the important unpleasant subjects?
    As a white person raised in Oklahoma (which is a little South, a little Southwest) I really felt a sense of justification that these uppity Northerners were recognizing that slavery wasn’t just a Southern problem. After I got past that, I saw myself in many of the thoughts and feelings expressed by the members on the journey. Kudos to the 10 who opened themselves up to us. I think this is a way we can start the conversation to get past the race issue. Isn’t it time?

  • Dale Stavroff

    FOREIGNID: 16226
    Let me begin by stating that I find slavery to be as repugnant as any other person might find it. That slavery exists to this day in other forms , and is apparently perfectly acceptable to the filmmaker, is a puzzle indeed. If the filmmaker has honest concerns about slavery… perhaps they should engage with it in its present forms… and leave history to those with the courage to tell the truth.
    In answer to the comment by one of the uninformed participants in this tragic revisiting…
    ” And these people thought of themselves as Christians”
    Please correct me if I’m wrong… but according to the Old Testament in the Bible… slavery was/ and is/ an accepted practice.
    I have a question as well ….
    Who brought the Africans to the forts along the coast from “as far as a thousand miles inland” ?
    The answer is… of course…. other Africans… who willingly participated in this long held African tradition.
    Apparently our ” filmmaker” has decided to leave out any and all relevant information… information that would further peoples understanding of this era in history , that interferes with the ” truth” that they purport to be revealing….
    Could it fairly be said that the filmmaker has no interest in the truth, or in informing, but rather has created a ” propaganda film” with the intent of vilifying a particular group of people? I think so !
    I believe we can do better than this….

  • Rey A

    FOREIGNID: 16227
    as just one african american amongst many more on the subject of that emotional film “Traces of the Trade” it gave me faith in the fact that some white people are sensitive enough to realize that horror God bless you Ms. Brown….

  • Gloria Wilner

    FOREIGNID: 16228
    When it becomes “necessary” for Michelle Obama to have to soften her statement that this is the first time she is really proud to be an American (because her country has chosen a presidential candidate of color) it tells us that it is verging on too late to begin this black:white dialogue. She said at last we are part of this country and accepted by it and we “make her” shuck and jive about being patriotic; how galling. We want black Americans to forget about the hideous history of slavery. We want them to stop “using it” just as we want Jews to quit complaining about the Holocaust. Well, we all know that a message can be considered delivered when it is truly heard and until that time it needs repeating.

  • Karen Burns

    FOREIGNID: 16229
    I was so very amazed and gratified to have the chance to see the fruit of Katrina’s./Dane’s quest for an answer as to how to respond to the horrific ciircumstances upon which white privilege in the U.S. is built. Although I work in Newark, NJ serving a predominantly black children’s cause, I need help with a having an engagement process to help very welll meaning, self-reflectiive white people in my Unitarian community in Morristown, NJ engange with the greater issue of racism and potential reparations. I am very interested in more information about reconciliation and reparations. II would very much like to have a diallogue andt tools to take this forward. On a personal level, Katrina, God bless you for hearing and acting upon this pivotal issue of our time. No one who lives in the America I do, and views the disparity I do, can fail to be quite upset and seeking of a way to make things “systemiically” and “spiritually” better. By day my work as the Executive Director of Essex County Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) for foster children in Essex (Newark & beyond) hellps with the systemic challenge, but the much deeper and broader spiritually systemiic challenge of having a “bridge to walk over” for priveliged liberal people is even more important. Help me tap into your lead. Cordiially, Karen Burns

  • Celeste

    FOREIGNID: 16230
    Just saw POV,so very sad. I am Jewish and I don’t know what is worse, being torn from your family and enslaved or just murdered?
    both experiences from our culture,just all sad, there has been so much evil done associated with greed and power throughout history. This movement/ movie,however,is a testament to goodness in people. I hate that so many African Americans were brought here as slaves but am also sad when I think of a United States that did not house many Afrcan Americans, if only they(you?) could have come here free like my ancesters that survived,isolation, pogrums,and the holocost did.I know some did come but most did not.

  • Paul Celestin

    FOREIGNID: 16231
    This is a great documentary. I feel It is also important to incorporate the Haitian experience in future projects.

  • Castri Marshall

    FOREIGNID: 16232
    insightful film, watching the production I felt a lot of emotions. I am from Carribean (Trinidad and Tobago) to be exact but I live in Brooklyn NY. I learn a lot from the film and read all of the comment you received I can’t believe that some people not all, still seen to be ignorant after watching your film; whether a person is Irish, black, Jew, Native Indian, Japanese or Chinese we should all be able to learn and feel some type remorse for each other suffering in history…… As for black people suing slave owners family today I think is crazy….. but however the white family can helping poor soc-economic black family or school is a great is idea……As for racism ( or a more softer word bias of what is different to someone ) I don’t think that will ever disappear no matter who you are. Because I seen it even in the black community but then again i blame slavery for preferring a lighter skin black than a dark skinned Negro. Anyway I can go on and on but I won’t but I think as for reparation you and your family is doing that by opening your life, sharing your feeling and heart.

  • Jack

    FOREIGNID: 16233
    “Traces” was very stimulating. Unfortunately, in spite of the matrerial it actually conveyed, it seemed to carry the same tired message that has been delviered to “whtie America” since the civil right’s era. “white” people owe bl;ack people soemthing for slavery. In this case, the message was almost laughable since every frame of the film was about what a family of Episcopalinen, upper class, old Anglo Americans did to black people during the era of slavery. The contrast between the realities of religion, ethnicity and social class and the fiction of generic white racism was so stark that it makes me wonder if Anglo Saxon upper class people are simply constitionally unable to recognize that their are varieities of white people with different historical experiences. Do WASP’S have some ort of genetetic inclkinatioon to subsume all whites under whatever rubric they now find convenient for their next social vision? In the entire presentation I never heard the words “ethnic” or “social class” or “Catholic”. In America, every generalization must be filtered through this multi-cultural prism but, when it comes to race, we are trapped in this polarity of “white and black” which fails to meet actual historical experience and causes resentment and division among people – poor whites and blacks – who might oiterwise sometimes unite.. If the corporatist shills that run our government had to exist without the assistance of the liberal Anglo elite, they might be in big trouble
    I certainly hope Obama agrees becuse, if this P.O.V. presages another national lecture on “white racism”, the Republicans will be back in power for another 8 years.

  • Randy

    FOREIGNID: 16234
    Saw Katrina’s film tonight and she entirely missed the point of the lesson.
    These last five hundred years of human mistreatment, which includes not only slave trade, but the general European genocide against all aboriginal peoples, as well those of simply different ethnic background (re: the six million) may be the victims of race or culture, but not so much as wealth.
    Listen: My great grandparents were serfs for the Czar and the King, and there isn’t any distinction between that and a slave, except that they were able to escape.
    Under the logic of reparation, I should have every right to sue the Russians, and probably the Chinese for the crimes of Genghis Kahn.
    It’s the wealthy that are evil. I notice that you have not offered one cent of your wealth to alleviate this condition. And you will note that, in the last 15 years, the rich get rich and the poor get children.
    And some of those will come home to your doorstep, angry.

  • Sue

    FOREIGNID: 16235
    I respect the courage it took to confront an ancestral past and potential dialogue and redress of some sort for decendants of slaves. However, I noted that Katrina and her family representatives spoke onscreen to elites in the black community. Wise move. It could have been dangerous in the hood.

  • Robert in California

    FOREIGNID: 16236
    Thank you again Ms. Browne. I think your documentary hit the right tone. It strikes the right chord because this is the bicentennial of the ban of slavery in the United States. I think enough time has passed for us Americans ( read maturity ) to look at ourselves in the mirror and take full inventory.
    Thank you again because you illustrated that despite this 1808 ban by the United States government, slavery and the slave trade continued well past the expiration date. We all have a right to our opinion but not to our own set of facts. As you depicted in your documentary, it takes records to prove or disprove any and every claim. Once the claim is proved or disproved as fact or fiction then we can debate what should or should not happen as a result of the findings. This is the most scholarly and deliberate process I know which may led to some kind conclusion on the matter.
    I am for one, an American who would rather know the truth about my country instead of the fictionalized version of that truth.

  • Jack

    FOREIGNID: 16237

    If a black and white child grow up as friends on the same island without benefit of history, would the actions of their distant ancestors have impact on their relationship today? Perhaps the racial problems today have more to do with history and less with who we’ve become as a people — black and white.

  • jab414

    FOREIGNID: 16238
    I am going to quote MARKZIMM who wrote very clearly and logically on another blog related to this film:
    “If the DeWolfs are guilty, who is innocent? And why stop with matters of slavery? Should every Jew be blamed for crucifying Jesus of Nazareth? Should every German alive one hundred years from now be lumped in with the National Socialists? And what (about Muslims in post-9/11America?”
    The idea that all white Americans are somehow responsible for slavery several hundred years ago is blatantly racist. It is no different from blaming every black person for the crimes perpetrated by black people that occur in my home city Philadelphia.

  • ellen

    FOREIGNID: 16239
    As a third generation american of eastern european heritage I don’t feel any guilt about the history of slavery in America. I would like to have seen the civil war addressed as part of this discussion. It’s too easy to say ‘this happened, you benefited, feel guilty, and pay up’. There were a lot of good men that served and died to free the slaves of this country, sometimes fighting there own families to the death. I’d say that’s pretty serious payback.

  • MRW

    FOREIGNID: 16240
    This film I found to be very educational along with heart pounding events. I learned that Africa had many issues that people faced during slavery. I think that as a society we have come far but still have a way to go.

  • Kelly McDaniel

    FOREIGNID: 16241
    I am an educator in the Los Angeles Unified School District. As such, I am in a position to see the structural legacy of slavery. While a healing process centered around a public forum is helpful, the more urgent issue in this country is the structural legacy of slavery that currently exists in our high poverty areas. One does not have to be an educator to be affected by these structural barriers. We see its affects on a daily basis on the news, in popular culture, as well as our individual social circles. In my view, it is only through economic empowerment that we will finally turn the corner from this shameful legacy of slavery in our country. Talking is a waste of precious time. Action NOW is needed. Funding must be funneled into these impoverished areas to uplift these children who see no hope of upward movement in the U.S. Education and real economic opportunity are the only hope. We need to reject the notion that we have a “color blind” society and IMMEDIATELY act to repair the horrific damage of the slave trade. I would love to have seen this documentary aired alongside HBO’s current documentary on the inner-city high school in Maryland. This is real life in the U.S. for the descendants of DeWolf and other’s slaves.

  • Winter Hoffman

    FOREIGNID: 16242
    You may use HTML tags for style and links.Bravo Ms. Brown and family. What an informative and pognant film. I really had no idea how much the Northeast factred into the slave trade. I live in California and feel very removed from my own ancestors who were from Scotland and Germany. My Aunt just told me that the faction from Scotland that ended up in Brooklyn arrived via Cuba because they were involved as overseers of some sugar plantations . As Presbyterians they were nt allowed to bury a stillborn baby on Catholic soil and were so offended that they put the baby in a barrel of rum and relocated to New York or so the story goes. Anyway your film puts some of the pieces together because this happened at the end of the Civil War. Thank you for having the fortitude to take on an unpleasant subject. Ut will bevery cool if Obama is our next President.

  • Jamar

    FOREIGNID: 16243
    The fifteenth chapter of Genesis will give a clue as to why slavery must be resolved before you die. Black people are hated by the world, and no race will escape Gods wrath for crimes agains’t the least of these. People will say all they want to excuse this matter, but this world is being judged. Igorance will be no excuse as we get closer to the day of our lord. I thank those Dewolf family members who had the courage to stand up an seek answers. All those who truely seek to do good will be rewarded The rest will weep the sin of the fathers, and that you can depend on.

  • Kurtlane

    FOREIGNID: 16244
    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 are they hiding it? 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.

    And of course, no one ever mentions that for all its horror (and I mean no sarcasm here), slavery in a weird way resulted in descendants of the slaves living far better than descendants of the ones who never were enslaved. That is deliberately hidden, as the Ghana that is shown is the upper class Ghana. Why? Certainly that would not justify slavery by any means. But it would make the picture more complex, most subtle. And subtlety is an enemy when the goal is to beat the white (and only white) descendants of slave-traders and slave-owners over the head with yet more guilt.

    Even Stalin said (though he didn’t practice it) that children shouldn’t be held responsible for the deeds of their parents. But I guess it’s different for the makers of this film.

    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. (But not the slaves.) 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. Or have commercial interests in promoting white guilt.

    Makes me want to throw up.

  • Amirh Bahati

    FOREIGNID: 16245
    I thank the DeWolfs for their documentary. The documentary, as I saw it, was not an exercise in liberalism, socialism, political correctness or any of the other labels thrown around when we are asked to confront myth-busting truths concerning the present and past history of the United States. It is simply one family’s attempt to know and reconcile the atrocities of their ancestors and from there begin a dialogue. And that is not political. It’s spiritual. It’s psychological. It’s sociological.
    I am both African-American and Native (father’s mother, Cherokee), so I am descended from two so-called oppressed people. I am 60 years old, so my first introduction to the history of blacks was that we were born slaves and that the greatest thing we ever did was to produce a George Washington Carver. Period. So I have my own idea of what constitutes an open and honest discussion of race in America. It is one that includes black people hearing and speaking of the truth of African continental slavery (slavery in African cultures was generally indentured servitude: slaves were not chattel, nor enslaved for life), and African complicity in the Atlantic slave trade, however small the percentage is. It is one that includes a complete – repeat — complete history of African-Americans in this country, including our pre- and post-Civil War contributions (excluding the fields of entertainment and sports). How about a complete history of native people, the complete history of the forced Chinese labor as it related to the building of our railroads.
    Some say get over it and move on. Some say that the issue is centuries old. I think that individuals can move on, with or without a national discussion, but I also say that the country and its collective consciousness and karma cannot move on or be lightened without that discussion. This race issue is a festering sore that we bandage and bandage when what it needs is a good cleaning plus a course of antibiotics. Let’s get to the suppressed and repressed sources, everyone, bring them to the surface, and then send them on their way.
    The truth, as I see it, is this: (Past and Current) National Wealth = (Stolen) Land + (Forced, Unpaid) Labor. The emancipation of African and African-American slaves never guaranteed that blacks would enter that circle of wealth and power; we were, in fact, forcibly kept out of national participation until well into the 1960; in other words, we’ve come to the table late in our history.
    Reparations can arrive in many forms. For some, the form is monetary. For me, the form is the complete unadulterated truth.

  • Karen

    FOREIGNID: 16246
    This film brought to mind all the things I have learned to dislike about New England Yankees in the last 31 years of life in Massachusetts. Physically non-descript, unattractive and badly dressed people who actually think that making and participating in a film about their family’s small role in American history entitles them to believe that they are interesting enough to have their lives documented in film. The dislike button is pushed when I recall that people like these have believed for nearly 250 years that they are American royalty, due to their arrival on an early boat.
    So, they are guilt-ridden and anxious about their historical role in a practice that existed in every country in the world for thousands of years? That was not invented by the U.S.? That continued to exist in the world long after 1865? A Catholic would say donate your riches to charity and participate in good-works to benefit the descendants of the people your ancestors wronged. But the Dewolfs say let’s whine about it.
    Oh, and hasn’t anyone ever told them that you have to wash the chicken AFTER you take it out of the package and BEFORE you cook it and that when it falls on the ground you WASH it or, better yet, THROW IT AWAY.
    These people are annoying on so many levels.
    How about a follow up film? It could be entitled “Part Two: How My Family Wronged Thousands of European Immigrants Who Worked Liked Slaves in My Family’s Factories When African Labor Became Unavailable.”
    The Dewolf’s didn’t invent slavery and neither did the Romans 2,500 years ago. And they weren’t the only ones to profit from it. I find it astonishing that they would sit around bewailing

  • Kunta Kinte–No!–Tobey

    FOREIGNID: 16247
    This adage is both a standing joke among some African Americans and it is a worldview. Some black people feel they can’t have their own name, their own identity; they can’t even have life itself as a person and an individual because they have to live a “skin color” reality first. They have to, there is no ifs, ands, or buts. In America you are a skin color. Most ‘Americans with hue’ find it highly troubling that they cannot live this life experience without their skin color taking center stage. And, ironically, that’s just about how it is beginning to round out for ‘Americans with a lot less hue.’ America is a skin-color experience based on superiority and inferiority.
    Light and dark skin hues have come to mean something to the people on Earth when they think of America and when they think of themselves. Dark means inferior, of course, and light means superior. In places around the world (like India) with all hues of humans this drama is played out as well. Superiority and inferiority is lived out. People believe in it (like they do about god) and they think this belief is true. And part of the superiorlistic “acts” is the dehumanizing of others to give one’s self a boost. But none of it is true; it is culture and it is evil and it is dys-human to do so.
    (BY NOW, MOST AMERICANS SHOULD HAVE CAUGHT ON TO THE TRUTH, THE WHOLE TRUTH AND NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH BECAUSE THE TRUTH IS RIGHT IN FRONT OF OUR EYES FOR US ALL TO SEE AND REALIZE. (As if we needed more evidence), we can just look at Barack and get at least a four-year-degree education, if not a master’s. Barack is a walking encyclopedia of human knowledge; his presence is thousands of years of human history and confusion and conjecture.
    Barack Obama is such a contrast to billions of words in millions of books on Western & American library shelves. His very existence makes all those words, visions, concepts and convictions to be out and out lies! Now why haven’t we seen the truth of it; why do we still say we do not know the truth of it? –Oppression!)
    [This is not an endorsement, pro or con, for Obama’s run for the presidency. Barack is a misnomer and an American icon already. His mere existence is an American education.]
    THIS FORUM is not a free and clear dialogue box. People can’t come here and say what they want to say and tell what they feel. Anger and loud talk is considered “ignorant” and “impolite” in America. We have another impoliteness and Ms. Browne of the De ‘ somebodys should know about it.
    The Americans with hue who rang my phone want to know, “What is she selling?”; “Is she completing a master’s degree to become an expert on Africa? No. It must be a doctorate; she went all the way to Africa. It must be a doctorate.”; “They just want to brag. Their number was the biggest. Is that it? They just want to feel important. They don’t have nothing else to do with themselves so they did this documentary.”; “So now, white people think it is time to heal? So we all should get in line and start healing then it will all be forgotten? Didn’t they make us forget before?”
    And that’s just about it. There’s nothing else to say except to talk about the “arrogance.” And, some people express it here. “Oh, let’s just all get along and sing Kumbaya and heal.” There’s a lot of anger building among the ‘oppressed’ but not because of the AMERICAN SLAVE TRADE, (I wish we could get that part straight) but just generally speaking all oppressed people are tired of the oppression for a host of reasons. People are tired of feeling oppressed and unwanted just for breathing. The arrogance runs through. No one wants to hear from an imperialist about what their imperialistic ancestors did, braggingly so…just because they felt like doing it. This pomposity makes no one feel better but the arrogant people.
    There is another AA adage: “White people should stay off TV because the world can see them and know who they are.” So this documentary was not an exercise in humanity; it was a racist commentary. If you want to show something about healing see Jimmy Carter, see the Gates Foundation, see a host of people who feel something genuine and do something about it as human beings…not as skin colors, just mere skin colors but as human beings. Now, you’d be doing somethin’. Otherwise, make an appointment with your therapist.
    In this “show” on imperialistic grandiosity, there was a table with a host of Ivy League graduates (“Daddy wrote a check.”) sitting around the table talking slavery, no, talking black slavery (there is a difference) and there was this one man who felt “unhinged” (“Daddy didn’t write a check.”) so he felt, so he suggested, that he should go and eat in the kitchen. (Everyone laughed but there was serious tension just like the kind that the whole world feels and comes to know around all imperialists.) And we the audience listened carefully, tuned in just waiting for some great wisdom and knowledge to come forth from all those “checks” to help us understand the world, so we could gain from all this top notched education, but there was nothing. These babies of the check writers knew no more than a high school graduate, in fact less, because some h.s. graduates have real-life practical life experiences as their reliable education. One is left with one major impression and that’s: ONE GOES IVY FOR ARROGANCE and arrogance only!
    All we saw was a bunch of white people looking for something to do to stimulate their presence on this earth and as usual they had to step on other people’s tranquility to do it. One African American woman said it best when she refused salutation. She had spent all her money, her time and her effort to go to Africa and be … without white invasion but not for long. They came and they intruded and they still have no remorse about doing that. I thought nothing much of their journey or their exploitation under the guise of friendship and forgiveness. One has to set-down on their arrogance to do that.

  • James DeWolf Perry

    FOREIGNID: 16248
    Lea, I appreciate your comments, and I strongly believe that it’s long past time for this nation, and for all of us, to acknowledge the sins of the past, so that we can move forward together.
    As for an apology, which you believe should have been offered in the film from Katrina and the rest of us in the family, I can only speak for myself. I can acknowledge the sins of long-dead white people, and I can take my share of responsibility, as a member of this society, for addressing the legacy of injustice which has resulted. I cannot, however, take it upon myself to speak for, much less to apologize on behalf of, these historical figures, any more than I would expect you to do.
    As for the education issue, Lea, there still seems to be confusion. No one went into this project unaware of American slavery or of the legacy of Dr. King. The issue is that several of the family members were unaware of such basic historical facts as the role of the North in slavery, and these are, in fact, matters which are still omitted from many public school curricula.

  • James DeWolf Perry

    FOREIGNID: 16249
    Both Jack and Randy raise important issues about the role of class in all of this.
    While the issue of class isn’t always raised explicitly in the film, it’s certainly present in many of the dialogues, and we considered class to be an essential component of our discussions. This wasn’t just about abstract discussions of race: it was often uncomfortable, for me and for others, to have these discussions with people who came from upper-class backgrounds.
    However, Jack, while several of the family members in the film are certainly from the upper class, I think it’s important to understand that all Americans benefit, to a greater or lesser extent, from the legacy of slavery. It’s simply not possible to look at the history, and at the present social and economic situation, and to dismiss the burden of history as simply falling on our society’s elite.
    Randy, while I agree with the importance of class in all this, as I’ve just said, I can’t agree with you that the wealthy are evil. And along the same lines, I don’t believe you should make assumptions about whether or not those DeWolf descendants who are wealthy give generously of what they have.

  • James DeWolf Perry

    FOREIGNID: 16250
    A few more responses:
    Danie and Amirh, your words were beautiful, and I hope that others reading this will scroll up and read them (June 26, 2008 04:11 PM and June 27, 2008 03:32 AM).
    Dale and Kurtlane, I can assure you that the filmmaker does not consider present-day slavery to be unacceptable, as you can confirm by visiting her web site.
    As for Dale’s point that Africans were the ones enslaving other Africans, and bringing them to the coast to trade to ship captains, this is mentioned in the film. Katrina even says, at one point, “I realized that some of their ancestors might have been slave traders, they could even have traded with my family,” and then we interview a local Ghanaian historian.
    Paul, you raise a great point about Haiti. Holly Fulton, who is one of the ten family members in the film, has a particular commitment to Haiti, having spent time in Haiti and having hosted Haitian visitors in her home, while they helped to bring the story of Haiti to the American people.
    Kelly, I couldn’t agree with you more about the urgent need to address the structural legacies of slavery in this country, starting with the education of our children.
    Finally, jab414, I agree with you that it would be wrong, and inappropriate race-based thinking, to suggest that white Americans today are somehow responsible for slavery hundreds of years ago. However, we shouldn’t let that issue blind us to the fact that slavery happened, and that it has left legacies which affect all of us today. I believe that all Americans do have an obligation to acknowledge our past, good and bad, and a responsibility to address injustices in our society, particularly ones which are the result of some of the very actions which have brought prosperity to us.

  • James DeWolf Perry

    FOREIGNID: 16251
    Obviously, that should have read, “the filmmaker does consider present-day slavery to be unacceptable, as you can confirm by visiting her web site.”

  • Nancy S

    FOREIGNID: 16252
    POV – Traces of the Trade–Much more than Liberal Guilt
    During the 1960s, my mother was active in the civil rights movement through our church which affected me profoundly. When I went to seminary as a middle-aged woman in the 1990s, I was troubled by the voluntary segregation of the student body by race at the very divinity school where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. had once studied. After viewing your documentary, I have a better understanding of our estrangement. Just as I was angered by being called a “white woman of privilege,” generations of African-Americans justifiably have been angered by our blindness to the ramifications of this deeply troubling, quiet, grim legacy. Yes, even today we are complicit. We need only look at our prison system to see how generations of black men are still “sold up the river” because of racism and the fear it generates. I am grateful that God has lifted up Katrina Browne and her family to share with us their struggle and lead us to seek reconciliation for the good of all. Thank you.

  • T. F. Haddock

    FOREIGNID: 16253
    YES – We need Big Change in our society today. Our culture has a Serious problem wth the ‘ Ostridge Syndrom ‘ & the end result is our esculating catasrophy which we are ALL ARE LIVING this very day. We Must Now Face Our Challenges And Resolve them TOGETHER or We Will Be Looking at The Final Demise of Our Country. P.S. We Really Don’t Have a Gas Problem – The Reason is That Our Corporations in tandom with our Government are Sitting on a HUGE OIL RESERVE which was drilled back in 1977 on GULL ISLAND RESERVE. SO, WHY AREN’T WE USING OUR OWN OIL INSTEAD OF LEACHING OFF THE WORlD ? Pretty Sorry Looking Lot We Must Be Viewed As.

  • Jeanne

    FOREIGNID: 16254
    Katrina Browne and her family are truly wonderful and honest. Our family is multicultural and I always feel that there is a wall between the Black and White that cannot be broached; the wall is racism. Sure, we talk about race and what it means to have a foot in both camps so to speak, but the true reaction is almost like the reaction that the American public had when the Democratic nominee referred to his White Grandmother and her acknowledged prejudices/suspicions. Our American family is much like my family; please don’t personalize that subject, it is okay to talk in generalities and theoretically, but please don’t let anyone “own” their feelings. Truly powerful! Again, PBS never disappoints, I know it is time for my donation, again.

  • Michael Shoemaker

    FOREIGNID: 16255
    I am wondering why these wealthy New England folks are flagellating themselves over something that happened over 150 years ago, before Darwin, when notions of humanity were not clearly understood. New England also has a history of witchcraft trials, but its now accepted that this was a result of limited understanding. Why should it be any different with slavery?

  • Tamara Lee

    FOREIGNID: 16256
    Traces of the Trade is one of the very best productions I have seen in my many years of watching PBS – - this is PBS at its best. As a white person, ever since learnng about the slave trade, I have felt this “blood guilt” – - that by association by blood to the slave traders, I shared in ways I did not fully understand to the blood that was shed by slaves. This “blood guilt” permeates American culture, the dead horse on the dining room table that no one wants to acknowledge.
    How have I responded to this?
    I have sought out opportunities to serve disadvantaged African Americans ever since my college days in the 60s. On the doctoral level, I have chosen to take classes that helped me to understand the truth of this blight on American history. I have educated others. I have taken a public stand against racism. On a personal level, I do not allow racist remarks to be made in my presence.
    Most recently, for the past three years I led an outreach into the highest crime, lowest income neighborhood of a large city. I listened to their anger – - I allowed them to be angry with me. I loved the children. We opened a Dream Center where the children were offered classes in dance, drama, drawing, painting, sculture, ballet. This is one small thing that one person chose to do to help reconcile what is clearly an unforgivable sin.
    Thank you, thank you to Katrina and her family for bringing this story to light. Enlightenment has the power to set us all free.

  • Michael Roosevelt

    FOREIGNID: 16257
    You’ve not only made the case for reparations, but you’ve made the case for why Americans need to understand the legacy of the enslavement of Africans.

  • Derrick Brown

    FOREIGNID: 16258
    This message is for Katrina Browne and Juanita Brown:
    Thank you both for having the courage you’ve displayed in bringing this subject to the forefront. It is very enlightening. I hope that your being candid will inspire everyone to continue to discuss the subject everywhere, so the despartely needed healing can begin. It is my desire that all Americans, black and white can find the courage to confront these issues without allowing fear and guilt to continue to create division as it has for such a long time. What is needed are real solutions. This matter can be dealt with in a civil manner, with dignity and respect and without arrogance or an attitude that displays a sense of self entitilment. What I know for sure is that if we continue to ignore this issue, it will only get bigger and grow worse over time, and the fear and the guilt will create more and more resentment and division and eventually consume and destroy us as a people. It has been clear to me for quite some time, that this cycle of ignoring this issue has to be broken and dealt with, so we can all begin to heal and put it behind us, and move foward. I know we can do it, if we all make an effort as you have. Thank you again.

  • T.W. Wallace

    FOREIGNID: 16259
    Was it explained why these poor unfortunate Africans were brought to these coastal forts to be sold as slaves? How did this evil happen? Who captured these people ?

  • Karl A. Oglesby , Sr.

    FOREIGNID: 16260
    Now, as we work to become one in Him
    Of forgiveness, reconciliation we speak.
    Incorruptible seeds of longing
    Now to be sown,
    In hearts made fertile by His Spirit, His Peace.
    Of enormous spectacles of suffering
    Blood washed walls of tears.
    Which became the foundation which now divides us
    Turning our hearts away.
    We must not turn our backs on one another
    We must pray for a Spirit of repentance from God,
    Longing for His Love to fill our hearts.
    Longing for our hearts to burn with fires of intercession,
    Longing only, finally, to love.
    To become Holy habitations for His Heart.
    Bless us, oh my Savior,
    With heartfelt desire to forgive.
    For past sins of our mothers and fathers
    Our neighbors, fellow patriots and friends.
    For all of our history together, bound at the hip are we.
    For all our history together denied,
    Never having repented or reconciled,
    For each our past sins against one another.
    I say to you now my brethren,
    Be my friend, finally.
    As we choose the liberty, the freedom
    Of His forgiveness and his peace.
    For we have but one way to go
    Forward, into our future together.
    Hand in hand
    Heart to heart
    Resolved to end our shared suffering.
    Souls once in the bondage of darkness
    Now lit by Love’s Holy Fire,
    Longing only to be forgiven
    For having committed such atrocities.
    And even if you are unable to reach out
    Extend your whole hand to me…
    May we at least share our tears?
    And our desire to hope for inner peace.
    Knowing that nothing is impossible
    For the God, we both love.
    As long as we are willing
    To give and receive it.
    Our only regret, is that we’ve waited so long
    To try, to begin
    To walk and talk.
    Dedicated to the Dewolfe family
    and the people of Bristol.
    Written by Karl A. Oglesby, Sr.
    Copyright 2008

  • Robert

    FOREIGNID: 16261
    Untold Story of White Slavery-
    As Robert C. Davis notes in this eye-opening account of Barbary Coast slavery, American historians have studied every aspect of enslavement of Africans by whites but have largely ignored enslavement of whites by North Africans. Christian Slaves, Muslim Masters is a carefully researched, clearly written account of what Prof. Davis calls “the other slavery,” which flourished during approximately the same period as the trans-Atlantic trade, and which devastated hundreds of European coastal communities. Slavery plays nothing like the central role in the thinking of today’s whites that it does for blacks, but not because it was fleeting or trivial matter. The record of Mediterranean slavery is, indeed, as black as the most tendentious portrayals of American slavery. Prof. Davis, who teaches Italian social history at Ohio State University, casts a piercing light into this fascinating but neglected corner of history.
    The Barbary Coast, which extends from Morocco through modern Libya, was home to a thriving man-catching industry from about 1500 to 1800. The great slaving capitals were Salé in Morocco, Tunis, Algiers, and Tripoli, and for most of this period, European navies were too weak to put up more than token resistance.
    What is most striking about Barbary slaving raids is their scale and reach. Pirates took most of their slaves from ships, but they also organized huge, amphibious assaults that practically depopulated parts of the Italian coast. Italy was the most popular target, partly because Sicily is only 125 miles from Tunis, but also because it did not have strong central rulers who could resist invasion.
    Large raiding parties might be essentially unopposed. When pirates sacked Vieste in southern Italy in 1554, for example, they took an astonishing 6,000 captives. Algerians took 7,000 slaves in the Bay of Naples in 1544, in a raid that drove the price of slaves so low it was said you could “swap a Christian for an onion.” Spain also suffered large-scale attacks. After a raid on Granada in 1566 netted 4,000 men, women, and children, it was said to be “raining [white] Christians in Algiers.” For every large-scale raid of this kind there would have been dozens of smaller ones.
    If the pirates were short on galley slaves, they might put some of their captives to work immediately, but prisoners usually went below hatches for the journey home. They were packed in, barely able to move in the filth, stench, and vermin, and many died before they reached port.
    Once in North Africa, it was tradition to parade newly-captured [WHITE] Christians through the streets, so people could jeer at them, and children could pelt them with refuse. At the slave market, men were made to jump about to prove they were not lame, and buyers often wanted them stripped naked again to see if they were healthy. This was also to evaluate the sexual value of both men and women; white concubines had a high value, and all the slave capitals had a flourishing homosexual underground. Buyers who hoped to make a quick profit on a fat ransom examined earlobes for signs of piercing, which was an indication of wealth. It was also common to check a captive’s teeth to see if he was likely to survive on a tough slave diet.
    Why is there so little interest in Mediterranean slavery while scholarship and reflection on black slavery never ends? As Prof. Davis explains, white slaves with non-white masters simply do no fit “the master narrative of European imperialism.” The victimization schemes so dear to academics require white wickedness, not White SUFFERING.

  • Nancy

    FOREIGNID: 16262
    I could not tear myself away from watching Traces of the Trade. It has so many dimensions – the DeWolf family’s discovery of their history, their journey to Ghana and Cuba, the North’s particpation in the slave trade and, as Katrina Browne said, the complicity of ordinary people in the slave trade. Congratulations on your courage to open your family’s lives to the public and toexplore these icritical ssues.

  • James L Stratton

    FOREIGNID: 16263
    About Traces of the Trade, Not all white families are to blame for the plight of slavery, My family was involved in freeing slaves for the south. They were involved in the underground railroad which helped to move run away slaves to other locations like kentucky and ohio. The families that could relate to thier plight were a huge asset to the freedom of black families during the civil war.One of those families is the Stratton’s
    thank you.
    James Stratton Eureka, CA.

  • Sheldon Ayers

    FOREIGNID: 16264
    I enjoyed the fact that the documentary raised issues that Americans feel uncomfortable dealing with. I will show excerpts of the documentary in my high school American History class.

  • April Miller

    FOREIGNID: 16265
    I don’t hear anyone vilifing Adam and Eve for causing all of us, thier offspring to have lost thier imperfection thus causing our getting sick, growing old and dieing. Nor do I hear Satan being blamed for challenging God’s ‘Right to Rule’ and pushing for hate and our turning our backs on God’s Sovernignty.
    There is nothing that can be done about what the people before us have done. We can all make a difference in how we treat eachother NOW, are you willing? What is wonderful is that the scriptures foretell a wonderful hope for the future where all will no longer experience the horror and saddness that we see now and in the past. Respectively speaking, read your bible daily. May you all have peace.

  • Liz Applegate

    FOREIGNID: 16266
    Our family has roots in New England dating back almost 400 years so we were part of “The Trade” even though we may not have known it. We, my husband and I, have a treasure that makes us very much aware of the past and shows us how to brighten the future. We have 4 year old great grand daughter whose paternal grand fathers were slaves. The love that flows between us sharpens the memory. By remembering we can heal with that love.

  • Lisa

    FOREIGNID: 16267
    Regarding “Talking Back: Traces of the Trade,” I was surprised, although I shouldn’t be, that a white family was speaking out against the atrocities locked within the makeup of their ancestry. As a black American woman I have experienced both good & bad from white America. I’ve found that some may choose to give into the more baseness of humanity but others continue to try to live by the golden rule of ‘do unto others,’ if nothing more than to appease their own consciences before God.
    All that being said, true justice continues to be lacking for those deemed ‘unworthy’ due to race, status, gender, disability, or whatever mankind chooses to add to that classification. Unfortunately, this will continue to be the case within this present system. Sure, inroads can be achieved but a world truly devoid of racism, injustice, etc. is not a possibility and history has borne that out.
    I’m not saying we should give up, mind you. I’m saying that we need more than we are capable of doing to achieve what is truly needed for any kind of true justice, but especially racial justice. We need heavenly intervention. Which according to the Bible is just what’s going to eventually take place. I look forward to that. Not some man made band aid, that will only be a temporary fix.

  • Regina Colston

    FOREIGNID: 16268
    Katherine Browne has given white people the opportunity and a language to address the slavery issue. Several years ago in Alabama when we celebrated the first MLKing Holiday the whites in Florence Alabama wanted to participate but did not know how. Bahai’is under the leadership of Jacquie Osborne had a meeting inviting the whites and blacks to meet and plan a celebratory march. The whites said they wanted to do it but did not know how. It was a grand ocassion brining together both groups. I celebrate the courage and integrity of Ms. Browne. Sometimes the only people who can help whites are whites and the only people who can help balcks are blacks. This is one of those complicated occasions. Regina Colston Huntsville, Al

  • James DeWolf Perry

    FOREIGNID: 16269
    T. W. Wallace asks about the enslaved Africans who were brought to the coast to be sold to European and American traders. They were captured and brought to the coast by Africans, generally from other societies. They would typically be captured in warfare, or else in raids on villages by outsiders.
    Robert, thank you for posting about the extensive slavery practiced by North Africans and Middle Eastern peoples . While not exactly unstudied by American historians, this is an important part of the human story, too. The trans-Saharan slave trade took more slaves from Africa to the north and east than the transatlantic slave trade took west, and should not be overlooked. And while North African raids against Europeans are only a small part of the story, they do illustrate the fundamental historical truth that all peoples have been, at one time or another, both victim and victimizer.
    James Stratton, it’s good to hear about your abolitionist ancestors. Those of us in the film, too, have ancestors who worked hard on behalf of freed slaves. I hope you will cherish the memory of those ancestors, while not forgetting that you may not know about the deeds of every one of your ancestors … and all of us, regardless of our ancestry, draw benefits from the legacy of slavery today.

  • Sue

    FOREIGNID: 16270
    i hope in my lifetime that some white people will be willing to talk about racism. One person ask me if racism still existed. When I said yes, she got mad and walked away. Even my friends who are white want to nulify my view point or give examples of their own experiences. Just being white, even though they were not slave holders, today gives privileges they do not realize. One thing would be for a white person to attend a sports event where they are the “only” white person in the crowd and then they will know how it feels to be a minority. Those of us who have tried to better ourselves by going to college often are the only black person in most classes. I am comfortable, but it gets very tiresome and I seldom speak out about race unless ask and then I brace myself for the negative comments. Money is not needed for me, but some black americans could us the reparitioin. Freely talking would help solve the whole raacial situation. Thanks for airing the program.

  • Carol Smith

    FOREIGNID: 16271
    After viewing Traces of the Trade I was shocked and convicted as the participants. For thirty-something years I taught social studies in the CPS and never really understood the facts and ramifications of the slave trade in the North. The presentation was so moving that I couldn’t take my eyes off the screen. This was television at its very best. Thank you for educating and enlightening us on a painful part of our American story. Let’s hope like Katrina Brown, we can begin the healing.

  • Edward Taylor

    FOREIGNID: 16272
    Ms. Browne, I am an African American interacially married for 21 years while residing in the state of Oklahoma. My wife and I were extremely proud of the courage you and your family members displayed during your research. Know that as a result of your contribution to the discussion of race and reperations many myths were debunked about the North and we have a better grasp of the reparations debate.

  • Edna Taylor

    FOREIGNID: 16273
    I watched this documentary and I was so pleased to see this done from a White perspective at this time in history. I am a 77 yr old Black woman and I have seen a lot of racism in my lifetime and I was wondering if anyone would eer see the reason for the anger in the Black youth and also in the older folks. We learned how to go quietly about our lives with inner anger and doing what we had to do to raise our children without hate. Thank you for this documentary. Please help to make a difference before we all destroy the world with the bitterness that I see on a daily basis.

  • Civilla Morgan

    FOREIGNID: 16274
    Thank you to Ms. Browne for taking what as far as I know is one of the first steps towards whites admitting publicly ‘today’, that slavery was wrong and that their own family had a part in it. I think it took a lot of guts to admit that her descendents were the largest slave traders in American History, and then to plan a family trip to follow the route that not only her descendents took, but that the slaves took as well. I watched glued to the t.v. from beginning to end. I had not planned to watch but I was intrigued: usually it is black people that are taking the journey to Africa…following the route. I found that I had the same reaction when the shackles and rope were put on the table, as some of her family members did. The only difference was that I wondered, although I am of West Indian descent, if some of those slaves were my ancestors and while my heart hurt for the slaves who were more than likely scared to death for the life they were about to lead; I don’t think that healing will happen if we continue to react to each other the way the Lady at the river reacted to one of the DeWolf family members. It will never end if we continue to carry hate…on either side. I hope that the dialogue whatever peaceful form it takes, will continue. I hope that when as black people our hearts hurt to hear the history of how our ancestors were treated, that we will also remember to thank them for their courage and determination for that is what has taken Black Americans to where we are today. Let us heal the hurt from both sides.

  • Elizabeth Delude-Dix

    FOREIGNID: 16275
    This is Elizabeth. I worked on the film with Katrina. You asked about the closing song. It is a Johnny Cash cover of the U2 song One from their album Achtung Baby.

  • Lynne Shivers

    FOREIGNID: 16276
    This was a profoundly moving program exploring the most difficult issue the U.S. faces today, and the program was sensitive and still personal. I am very happy PBS created the program. I know a few friends, as well as my Quaker Meeting, which are exploring these issues, and I will tell them about the program. I think the most important thing to do now is simply to begin the discussion in a face to face way, sharing stories and feelngs as well as ideas. White guilt and black anger are real barriers which prevent people from discussing racism and racial separation.
    For ten years, I worked with a committee at a community college; the committee was designed to help students, faculty, and staff examine conflicts that prevented us from communicating clearly. But we on the committee knew we really were helping all the college examine racism. Each program in the auditorium encouraged students to respond to ideas presented in roleplays and presentations on stage. One of the best programs was when we copied down on posters graffitti seen in student rest rooms and placed these posters on the auditorium walls. When the program ended, we invited students to tear down the posters. They went down in a flash! We also learned that some teachers duplicated our programs in their clclass rooms. We cannot claim that the committee’s work prevented racial violence, but we are clear that the atmosphere was more constructive, that it helped people consider ideas they had not considered in the past.
    —Lynne Shivers

  • Steve N Levin

    FOREIGNID: 16277
    I watched your film with great interest. I am a tour operator, specializing in the Slave Trade and have operations in the Elmina Castle. Your sensitivity to subject is wonderful and I would suggest that your treatment of the subject is “spot on”, but I might suggest also that your views with respect to the African reaction is not totally correct. While culpability cannot be denied, I would suggest that the subject is far more deep than your film suggests. I have just read Professor Stephanie Smallwood’s book, Saltwater Slavery”, wherein she(and others in the academic world) suggest that everyone was responsible, whites and Africans alike. Interestingly for the African, slavery in some instances allowed conquerers not only to vanquish their enemies and kill their spirits (by killing off tribes), they could now ship them away and be compensated. What is so interesting for the student is that even today, high minded, leading African tribes, deny any culpability. The fact is that we (mankind) for different reasons bear responsibility. I wish your wonderful experience could have included this fact. In any case thank you for keeping the subject alive and personal.

  • Art Duddles

    FOREIGNID: 16278
    I caught the last half hour or so of this outstanding documentary. My feeling is that the problem of slavery is not just a problem of Aftrican-Americans, but of our condition under this financial sytem of Capitalism. The distribution of wealth depends on slavery: whether you are black, white, Irish, German, Spanish, Nigerian, et al.
    “The Fear of Poverty grows out of man’s habit of preying upon his fellow men, economically. The animals which have instinct, but no power to THINK, prey upon one another physically. Man, with his superior sense of intuition, andhis more powerful weapon of THOUGHT, does not eat his fellow man bodily; he gets more pleasure from eating him FINANCIALLY.
    “…nearly every state and nation has been obliged to pass laws, scores of laws, to protect the weak from the strong. Every blue-sky law is indisputable evidence of man’s nature to prey upon his weaker brother economically.” – Napolean Hill, The Law of Success.
    The problem of slavery is another example of the battle of the weak vs. the strong, them vs us. Capitalism carried to its extreme is destructive as Communism carried to its extreme. The answer lies in us: the consciousness that we are all in this together, not the consciousness of them vs. us. This documentary is definitely a strong step in this direction. Thank you.

  • Ron Paquette

    FOREIGNID: 16279
    The Halls of Change:
    “Within the Hall of Ignorance kama-rules. The man, weighed down by much misplaced desire, seeks for the object of his heart’s attention within the murky halls of densest maya. He finds it there but dies ere garnering all the longed-for fruit. The serpent stings him, and the joy desired recedes from out his grasp. All seeking thus the selfish fruits of karma must each despise each other; hence strife and greed, ill-will and hatred, death and retribution, karmic invocation and the thunderbolt of vengeance characterize this Hall.
    Within the Hall of Learning intellect rules and seeks to guide. Desire of a higher kind, the fruit of manas and its use, supplants the lower kamic urge. Man weighs and balances, and in the twilight Halls of Intellection seeks for the fruit of knowledge. He finds it but to realize that knowledge is not all; he dies upon the open field of knowledge, hearing a cry beat on his dying ears: “Know that the knower greater is than knowledge; the One who seeks is greater than the sought.”
    Within the Hall of Wisdom the Spirit rules; the One within the lesser ones assumes supreme control. Death is not known within these halls, for its two great gates are passed. Discord and strife both disappear and only harmony is seen. The knowers see themselves as One; they recognize the field wherein knowledge grows as Brahmic dissonance and differentiation. Knowledge they know as method, an instrument of purpose utilized by all and just a germ of eventual recognition. Within this hall union of each with each, blending of one and all, and unity of action, goal and skill marks every high endeavor.”
    “True union exists in the realization that the greater life ever includes the lesser, and that each expansion of consciousness brings man closer to this realized Oneness.”
    The Ancient Wisdom

  • Tom Rodriguez

    FOREIGNID: 16280
    After recently watching a PBS story on the DeWolf family, I couldn’t help but be amazed about how almost no one is discussing the unconscious impetus behind all human actions and behavior. While the lust for power and wealth have always been motivating factors that have contributed to our current situation, there is a deeper and more complex miscreant in our midst. In the words of the comic strip character Pogo, “We have seen the enemy, and they is us.”
    I would also like to add that we continue to overlook the abuse and exploitation of our newer scapegoats, Mexican immigrants, with about 27,000 now in U.S. prison camps, allowing corporations like Halliburton, Wackenut and the Corrections Corporation of America to prosper from the new Jail Industrial Complex -a system that is void of humanity- and flourishes. Denial, apathy and misoneism are powerful allies in our current and historical amnesia.
    In reality, what we don’t know does hurt us and everyone around us. Yet, caught in the stranglehold of scientific rationalism and concretistic thinking, we continue to repeat the same mistakes over and over, and now we stand at the edge of the precipice staring into the abyss, still scratching our heads in bewilderment. In a recent manuscript that I’ve completed, I have shared some information that hope will begin a dialogue about something vital, something that we are not looking at and are afraid to discuss -the unconscious. What we don’t know does hurt us and everyone around us! All one needs to do is to turn on a television at any time to witness the toxic consumerism, violence, meaninglessness and despair that is so pervasive in our society and in our world. We are irrrefutably creatures of the opposites, constantly caught in the push and pull of this dynamic force, yet we continue to see our salvation outside of ourselves or we believe that mind and brain are one and that there really isn’t such a thing as soul or spirit, since they are only byproducts of the brain. And yet, all of our best thinking has brought us to this point.
    It was de Chardin who said that we are not human beings having a spirtual experience, but spiritual beings having a human experience. Even science and religion have their dark side, but we are throttled by the belief that all the answers lie in a three-pound lump of gray matter.
    I contend that all the outer conflict, violence, fear, divisveness and war that we are seeing in the outer world is a reflection of what is going on inside of us on a microlevel. Until we address the issues of our own self-awareness and wholeness, we are lost -between spirit and mind, between love and hate, and between the opposites that threaten to crush us like the Symplegades that the Argonauts were forced to navigate.
    There is no doubt that we are in a time of great peril and that what we are witnessing was predictable and predicted by both religion and psychology. Yet we refuse to talk about our own darkness and miss a real opportunity at understanding and redemption.
    I have been reluctant in the past to blog but feel compelled to share my ideas and contribute to the community of thought. Although I realize this could be a futile effort, I have no doubts about the value and significance of what I am attempting to present. My greatest dream is that someone like Bill Moyers would be open to information that I am certain has profound implications for us all. I’m sure his plate is full, but I’m sure that it deserves at least some review. I will continue to cling to the hope that someone of his stature will lend me and ear.
    I am not an established author, a saint or a sage. I’m just passing through and attempting to share what I have learned with others along the way. Mr. Moyers is an American treasure that I have admired through the years, like so many others. In the end I believe that an ancient Chinese aphorism best describes the situation: “The greatest curse of the gods is to survive your own truth.”
    Thank your time,
    Tom R.

  • James Sterling Lacey III

    FOREIGNID: 16281
    I am a black male born in Pasadena, CA in 1950 who came of age in 1967 and 1968. Over time my commute vehicle has been rear ended three separate times by three different white American drivers (aka lynching by automobile) inflicting wounds like post traumatic stress syndrome, near death experience, not recognizing who my own mother is, a critical head injury, plus a one inch bulging hernia from the seatbelt that finally healed itself after thirty years, just to start. Working in the manual labor field of Food Service as a Dishwasher/Cook as I was was supposed to provide a margin of safety. My actual God given talent was that of rocket scientist if you consider that at fifteen I woke up one Saturday morning, (due to the complexity of my vision) drew up a sketch for rocket, built one rocket faithful to my drawing, fueled same rocket with gunpowder twice that first day, and weeks later for a third time. This was done with the help from my best friend’s Andy’s dad. For the record, my rocket and I were three for three in that I loaded it three separate times full of gunpowder it ignited right on que, burned one hundred percent and fly where I intended. At the time NASA was preigniting one Atlas rocket after another. I played dumb for personal safety and was still attacked.
    I need yuor help.

  • Benny Winfield

    FOREIGNID: 16282
    Thank you for devoping this film. It is long overdue. We need to talk about race in this country. We can’t ever began to heal until both sides sit down and see each other as a fellowman. your film has put a burning desire in me to visit Ghana. I want to feel the pain and suffering from the ” door of no return “. We are still suffering in this country. Our young people are going to jail in record numbers. This is the new slavery. I applaud your efforts to reconcile with the past. We need to have the government apologize for slavery and then we can start the healing process. Where there will be no more hating.

  • Lucky Altman Lynch

    FOREIGNID: 16283
    Hello Katrina. I want to congratulate you on the completion of Traces of the Trade. We met in Rhode Island a number of years ago at a Learning Lab where you shared your vision and a few minutes of the film. The dialogue that your family began is the deep dialogue that leads to action..White Racial Awaareness and action is the critical step towards reconciliation. With blessings and respect, Lucky Altman Lynch

  • Elena Lee

    FOREIGNID: 16284
    For some reason, I was shocked that the slave trade could be traced to individual families in the North. The film was eye opening. I thought I knew more than it turns out that I do about slavery.
    As for the journey of the family, I would like to have seen them take the trip home on a restored slave ship so that they could really get in touch with what it was like to be a slave. I am not an African American myself; however, I think that the experience would have made them more impassioned about the subject of slavery. At the very least, these people needed to see the contemporary results of slavery–perhaps to have gone to a poor, African American town to see how they live and to talk to the people. Perhaps that is the subject of another documentary.
    In terms of reparations, the idea of an investment fund to be set up by families and towns involved with the slave trade is a good idea. I do have some reservations about the families of the South being willing to do so. At least the dialog has been started with the De Wolf family. Perhaps the future might hold a place for reparations to the descendants of slaves.

  • Ron Morgan

    FOREIGNID: 16285
    I’m sorry Katrina carries such guilt. But wait! Maybe the business men who indentured my Irish and Welsh ancestors should be held accountable for their deeds! Perhaps this would assuage the guilt their families must certainly carry. Brothers were separated, unrecoverable debt was forced, and horrible working conditions inflicted on people who could basically be called “white slaves.” Katrina get over it. We, their descendents, have moved on. “Traces of the Trade” was a waste of time. Time for all of us to stop whining and looking for pet projects to make us feel warm and fuzzy.

  • Alicia Rivera

    FOREIGNID: 16286
    At the risk of sounding overemotional, this film made me cry and I never cry! The program was powerful and touching. It had a clear and strong message. I could not disagree more with the person that founded irrelevant. No wonder there is so much more to be done in healing racial wounds. My hope is this program will encourage people to find practical ways to initiate and maintain productive dialog.
    Alicia Rivera
    Santa Barbara, California

  • sandra m

    FOREIGNID: 16287
    The DeWolfe family are courageous in confronting their family’s history. But, what is to be done now? It seems to me that in any other situation, the persons or institutions that profit from someone’s (now deceased) labor should pay the unpaid wages to that person’s estate. However, descendants of those enslaved laborers shouldn’t expect a personal check. Instead, government leaders might decide to create a kind of CETA-like program and call that slavery reparations. CETA was designed to help urban areas after the sixties’ riots. Yet, everybody and his brother-white suburbanites included-were allowed to pick the CETA cherry tree. Likewise, we’d see plenty of people whose ancestors never set foot in the ante-bellum world getting paid from “slavery reparations”. The legacy of slavery is really the ideology of racial superiority and inferiority that supported enslaving blacks. Consider our presidential candidates. This is a prime example that a black has to be twice as good as a white to be considered equal. We need education that shows the totality of black people, going beyond the slavery era. I’d recommend a few books to start: THE AFRICAN ORIGIN OF CIVILIZATION by Cheikh Anta Diop, INTRODUCTION TO AFRICAN CIVILIZATIONS by John G. Jackson and THE COLONIZER’S MODEL OF THE WORLD by J.M. Blaut.

  • James DeWolf Perry

    FOREIGNID: 16288
    Elena Lee makes the suggestion that the family could have taken the trip home on a restored slave ship.
    You might be interested to know that last week, the DeWolf family was invited to join the crew of the Amistad, the replica of the slave ship which famously experienced a successful revolt in 1839, as they made their homecoming to New Haven, Conn. after a 14,000 mile voyage to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade.
    I’m not sure whether the experience of a two- or three-month vogyage aboard a replica slave ship (presumably, in the hold of the ship) would be necessary in order for those of us in the film to feel sufficiently impassioned about slavery. But you can rest assured that several of us have spent a great deal of time directly experiencing, and addressing, the contemporary legacy of slavery (what I refer to in the film as “the living consequences today”.
    The issue of reparations, however, is a very difficult one. Even if we could agree that reparations would be a good idea, I don’t see that the money could come from “families and towns involved with the slave trade.” Most slave trade descendants are probably like most members of the DeWolf family, and wealthy at all. Likewise, Bristol is probably typical of slave-trading centers today: not, by any means, a wealthy American town in the 21st century. Today, the benefits of slavery and the slave trade have indeed multiplied, but they are distributed widely, in the prosperity of the United States and its citizens.

  • James DeWolf Perry

    FOREIGNID: 16289
    I managed an unusual number of typos in that last comment.
    Let me try again:
    Elena Lee makes the suggestion that the family could have taken the trip home on a restored slave ship.
    You might be interested to know that last week, the DeWolf family was invited to join the crew of the Amistad, the replica of the slave ship which famously experienced a successful revolt in 1839, as they made their homecoming to New Haven, Conn. after a 14,000 mile voyage to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade.
    I’m not sure whether the experience of a two- or three-month vogyage aboard a replica slave ship (presumably, in the hold of the ship) would be necessary in order for those of us in the film to feel sufficiently impassioned about slavery. But regarding your other suggestion, you can rest assured that several of us have spent a great deal of time directly experiencing, and addressing, the contemporary legacy of slavery (what I refer to in the film as “the living consequences today”).
    The issue of reparations, however, is a very difficult one. Even if we could agree that reparations would be a good idea, I don’t see that the money could come from “families and towns involved with the slave trade.” Most slave trade descendants are probably like most members of the DeWolf family, and not wealthy at all. Likewise, Bristol is probably typical of slave-trading centers today: not, by any means, a wealthy American town in the 21st century. Today, the benefits of slavery and the slave trade have indeed multiplied, but they are distributed widely, in the prosperity of the United States and its citizens.

  • Anon

    FOREIGNID: 16290
    This story of the DeWolf’s is just another story to attest to all the crimes committed by christians against human beings; Slavery and Genocide committed by christians is only news to those indifferent to crimes against non-christians.
    Without having experienced christian hate at the wrong end of a rifle, it�s easy for the g. w. bush�s of this country to say minorities can pull themselves out of poverty if they wanted too.
    1. The only thing you can say to those that survived Slavery and Genocide is �I�m sorry�.
    2. The only thing you can do for those that survived Slavery and Genocide is �pay their worth�.
    edited by moderator for language

  • derek

    FOREIGNID: 16291
    I as an African American person was as moved by this film as much as anything I’ve seen in a long time. It begins the cathartic process of ‘opening’ and I’m very very glad I switched the channel when I did. Kudos. I’m an artist as well. This is exactly what art is supposed to do. Many folks may not like it, but so what? Ya’ll did right, I think.
    Derek Palmer

  • Claudia

    FOREIGNID: 16292
    James, I am interested to know what the reaction of people in your home & community have been now that the film has aired. Do they mirror the variety of reactions posted here? I am aware that the relative anonymity of a post may encourage people to write things they would not outwardly say.

  • Marty Shows

    FOREIGNID: 16293
    I am white, 66 yrs old, graduated from an all white state college in 1964, one year before the Civil Rights Act. My racism education began when I tried to date a black man. He might as well have spoken German or Russian. I suddenly realized we grew up in very different countries even tho we thot we both grew up in Texas and Louisiana. I found and joined the Center for the Healing of Racism here in Houston where I live. I took the class offered called Dialog:Racism several times. I asked that they come and conduct the class at my workplace where my co-workers and the clients we served were very diverse. That bombed. I attended the Summer Film series produced by the CFHR. I learned and learned about how blacks have internalized racism and whites are unaware of racism and white privilege. I learned about Institutional racism and the genocide of Native Americans, discrimination thru out our history of anyone “not like us” (white). I learned that race is not a real thing. The word race was coined as a political term, not a scientific one. As people, we differ more from one individual to another than we differ as any group defined by skin color. I learned that if we can trace our lineage back only a small number of generations, our family trees are joined. Not because of slavery but because we can all be traced back to 7 women thru our mitochondrial DNA. I learned a lot and the last session of the 9 weeks of classes dealt with the subject of becoming allies in the fight to defeat racism.
    Altho that session had many good ideas and it was 15 yrs ago, I still dont know what to do about slavery. It was more than wrong. The legacy of slavery has poisoned our society. The effects continue to manifest themselves as both blacks and whites point this way and that, blaming each other. Many of us whites have realized fully that white skin is not superior to any other color of skin. Some blacks and whites still believe lighter is better. I think we dont know the true statistics about how much racism exists in each group. I think that the candidacy of Barack Obama helped to reveal to blacks that there are a lot of whites who have moved away from skin color prejudice. I think it helped a lot of us whites who felt we were alone to realize we had some allies as we push for more equality. I expect this truth coming out to advance our cause of defeating racism. Political polls slice and dice statistics to the point that when this election is over, we will all know where the racism resides. I think this will help us all to work smarter toward our goal.
    However, Ive been thinking for a while now that we need a truth and reconciliation commission. We need to know what whites can do as a group to heal the anger and hurt produced by slave owners and handed down thru generations of blacks. None of use were there then and the shame makes whites want to forget what their ancestors did and blacks want to never forget it, lest it happen again. We need a way to heal and this is the only program I have ever seen anywhere that asks the question, “What can white ppeople do about slavery?” We feel the need to do something. Reparations has been talked about off and on over the years. This makes me think “money” but I believe there is probably not enough money in the world to aaccomplish reparations for slavery. Im afraid each person would end up with say, a check for $500, which would feel insulting. Whatever amount of money could be awarded would never feel like enough. It would be like someone murders your child and you sue and the court awards you $100,000. It’s an insult compared to the value of what you have lost. I do think that reparation is possible however. I think we need much more dialogue on this. I would like to know what black people think about what we white people could do that would be significant and would feel like something substantial had been done from their standpoint. The anger that black people justifiably feel is affecting the whole human family. We need to heal.

  • James DeWolf Perry

    FOREIGNID: 16294
    Claudia, thanks for asking your question. Among my circles of friends and colleagues, the reactions are usually either disinterest, or general agreement with strong qualifications. I’ll elaborate.
    Many people I know aren’t interested in this topic at all. They understand and appreciate the history, and can draw the connections to our society today. But, for whatever reason, they aren’t particularly motivated to take up this cause. They may believe that after all this time, the benefits and harm of slavery have been spread so widely throughout society, and with so much variation in terms of how much particular people are affected by them, that it’s a matter now of designing appropriate social programs. Or they may simply not be drawn to the particular issue of racial justice, not feeling the strong feelings of guilt or shame that some members of the family discuss having in the film.
    Other people I know are thrilled to see this issue being raised. They believe passionately that the legacy of slavery and discrimination remains with us today, and that there are unresolved issues in our society, both in terms of healing psychological wounds and in more concrete terms (education, jobs, housing, etc.).
    However, they may strongly disagree with one or more of the fundamental decisions which Katrina made in crafting her film. For instance, I hear quite often that Katrina expresses a great deal of guilt and shame in the film, and talks as if these are universal white feelings. They often take issue with the decision to make a film focused on white people talking with each other (an issue I raise in the film, in fact) or feel that the film focuses too much on how hard it is for some white people to bear the burden of being white, given this history. They may have other objections, such as disagreeing with the focus on particular solutions, especially apologies and reparations. Katrina, of course, had good reasons for choosing to emphasize all of these elements in the film, but they often don’t sit well with people I know.
    As you can see, these reactions don’t really mirror the range of responses found here — nor do they look particularly like people who have similar objections, but aren’t willing to share them. The format of this blog, however, not only lends itself to more honesty, but I think it also encourages people with particularly sharp or unpopular opinions to take the time to write.

  • April Miller

    FOREIGNID: 16295
    Dear Mr. James DeWolf Perry,
    Would you mind please posting the Nursery Rhyme about Adjua and Pauledore. I have become intrigued by it I can’t stop thinking about it. I also can’t find anything published on it. I appreciated the film very much, I don’t feel that the newer generations of your family are blood guilty for what your forefathers have done, we all hold responsablity for how we treat others. I am glad you all had the resourses to travel back in time and heal whatever you needed for yourselves. So many of us can’t do that.
    Thank you in advance should you choose to post the poem. Kind regards.

  • Dora Smith

    FOREIGNID: 16296
    I was disappointed in “Pieces of the Trade”. I am descended from Mark Anthony Dewolf’s brother was sent back to Connecticut, and teh triangular trade involvement was actually started by their father, who may have married into it. I was expecting more detail about my ancestors, about the triangular trade and the involvement of the northern econmy in the slave trade, adn about the lives of the slaves. The program touched on those things and explained some of them clearly if briefly, but the main focus was some sort of liberal academic head trip, apologies and reparations.
    Katrina Browne has explained that her social work career, her studies for the ministry, and her journey to learn more about her DeWolf ancestors were all prompted by a profound sense of alienation from her society, and of something wrong that she couldn’t put her finger on. My own quest to learn my family history was driven by a need to understand some things that went profoundly wrong in my own family, and these problems are similar in both roots adn character.
    Understand me clearly. I do NOT take issue with publicly discussing uncomfortable family issues. See my own web sites. and
    Partly as a result of my research into the DeWolfe’s, and actually of talking to some people who were on the periphery of this project, I have realized that the source of Browne’s and my alienation and my family’s problems is profound strains and tensions within our society, that are a continuation and further development on the strains and tensions that existed in our society in the 18th and 19th centuries. For instance, there are tensions between an evil economic system and an earlier traditional system of morality, and there are tensions surrounding how a society is to deal with its more troubled aspects.
    Browne’s focus on making up in this time for a particular problem that was confined to another time completely misses the boat.
    She and her intrepid little group of pilgrims further come across as stuck on another planet, far, far away, a long time ago. In a year when we may elect a Black President of the United STates, whose program is to deemphasize differences and emphasize commonality, and coming from a summer and spring spent working hard on his campaign, I want to know what sort of space aliens these people are with their emphasis on how different people are, how scared people are of each other, how angry the races are at each other. These people are entirely stuck in another time. Discussing anger, forgiveness, apologies and reparations is not appropriate to this country in the first decade of the 21st century. Focusing on apologies and reparations can only perpetuate bad feelings between racial groups, adn goes against everything Barack Obama stands for, and what he lectured us about in his response to Rev. Wright’s sermon that Katrina Browne and company obviously missed because, having spent too time on their other planet, they do not know the man is running for President of this country and do not know that he looks likely to win. If Katrina Browne really did have an intuition that our society is on the brink of a major sea change on race, she should have had more faith in it. And I am curious – how could she not even mention that Barack Obama is running for President, even in her postscript? Maybe she’s done something I’ve been known to do – one time I talked about the one token black manager in the bank branch where I worked, where ALL the managers were Black? In other words, Katrina Browne sees Black people exactly where adn how she expects to see them, and reality itself cannot make a dent.
    I also have to wonder what planet she’s been on that she has not been around more Black people. I could not believe the degree to which they treated their Black assistant producer like a Martian, and the way Blacks on that program were consistently presented as lone trailblazers every where they go. What planet have any of these people been on – the Black or the White people in this film? I too grew up completely isolated from Black people – 50 years ago in an Adirondack village, but Black people are as many as half the people I work with, not to mention as often my supervisors and managers as not, and some housemates have been Black, and I soon got over it, 30 years ago already. My housemates are a couple; a White man and a Black woman.
    Like Browne and her entire band of pilgrims, I am Episcopalian, and I particularly take offense at her emphasis on her lobbying for an apology for slavery by the Episcopal Church. I am aware that this film was actually done with an emphasis toward certain processes within the Episcopal Chruch. I am aware of this, and am deeply angered and offended by it. The Episcopal Church is treating homosexuals exactly the same way it once treated Black slaves, and it has not learned a single thing. What is more, the people who most want to treat homosexuals exactly the way our Church once treated Blacks, are pretty much who wants to apologize for the way it once treated Blacks. The whole thing is very sick.
    There were signs on the program that Browne and company have a singularly medieval herd mentality. They repeatedly think as a group, and think about others only as members of groups. This is typical of people who supported Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primaries; many White middle class liberals pathetically obsessed on, for instance, if they should vote for the Black person or the woman, instead of evaluating the two candidates as individuals with strengths and weaknesses to bring to the office of President. Feminists often expressed the view that we should vote for the woman, even if the woman in question is Lady Macbeth. I see the same sort of group mentality in the way the Episcopal Church’s hierarchy is dealing with homosexuality. It’s about the views of an international collectivity. Totally missing is the application of conscience the matter, as in how do we treat gay members of our own congregations.
    This film comes across as the particular journey of a group of elite intelligentsia descended from a single upper class family of Rhode Island. Mark Anthony’s brother Simon, from whom I descend, led a much more commonplace existence. (Mind you, it was their father, and probably their mother’s relatives, who started the triangle trade empire.) His descendants were not elite, and were often working class. Their descendants have proven capable of thinking and doing enough strange, dishonest things, but perhaps they have a fundamental tendency that Mark Anthony’s brother lacked to have two feet planted firmly on planet Earth?

  • Wilson Boozer

    FOREIGNID: 16297
    In my experience, discussions of slavery between blacks and whites usually start with whites denying any responsibility for the trade, attributing it solely to their ancestors. The discussion then descends to whites claiming that blacks are provided privileges that have been granted to them through altruism. It never gets very far beyond that. It is never acknowledged in these discussions that the wealth of the United States is largely the result of the trade. Banking, insurance, shipbuilding, commerce and every other enterprise had their beginnings, and were seeded with capital by the trade. While current whites were not responsible, their status in the culture gives them benefits over blacks that are a direct consequence of slavery.
    This program was the first that I have ever seen in which not only was the trade acknowledged, but that the consequences of it were recognized as well. Several suggestions were put forth to remedy the harm to the culture that this institution has caused, primarily what has begun to be called “reparations.” Usually cash is discussed as repayment for free labor, but cash would not create true equality. The true legacy of slavery is the wretched condition that many blacks find themselves in after two hundred years of bondage, added to a century of second class existence followed by forty years of litigation against legal measures to rectify it, and no amelioration of the problems that the institution caused. Reparations should take the form of enriched education and opportunities to compensate for denial of economic equality. But it will never happen until the United States acknowledges its debt to slavery.

  • Earlyn Walker

    FOREIGNID: 16298
    Experiencing discimination brings a lot of bitterness towards those who discriminated against you. You can dscuss it with those like you who are experincing the samy discrimination. That helps a lot. But healing comes from the acts of those that discriminate against you. This film brings healing. This film says not all the people not all the time. The DeWolf family members that were brave enough and carrying enough to go through this experience started a much needed healing for me. Thank you for sharing this experience

  • Stephen

    FOREIGNID: 16299
    Sadly the legacy of Africa is example enough of black on black violence. It’s been happening for hundreds of years. The shambles of Africa with its wonderful resources is squandered by dictators and strongmen of black descent who continue to prey on their own brothers and sisters. When will the people of African descent rise up and make Africa into a world economy instead of always demanding that the first world pay reparations? To watch these self-indulgent white people of DeWolfe descent was absolutely disgusting. If the DeWolfe clan is so guilt-ridden and heart-stricken by their so called involvement in the slave trade; let them pay the reparations. Let them work in the AIDS Clinics in Africa. Why must the America join in the endless hand-wringing of “mea culpa, mea culpa”. The DeWolfe clan that this documentary portrays are a sad, pathetic lot; whose end result seems to be socialism. Shame on you! And this coming from the descendants of one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. Enough already!

  • Sandra Muinde

    FOREIGNID: 16300
    I was able to meet Katrina at the 2006 General Convention In Columbus, Ohio and view the early version of this documentary. What has been done is truly a remarkable service to humanity, both black and white. I am an African American female and thank this family for having the guts to go public and create an atmosphere for dialog. This is one reason I am proud to be an Episcopalian.
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  • colleen Gilgenbach

    FOREIGNID: 16301
    thank you for this film. We recently traveled thoughout the south east part of the US with our 16 year old. (from Wisconsin) We visited several cotton plantations thinking we would learn about slavery. I was appalled at how it was glossed over or blatanly ignored. They were still presenting the southern genteel plantation owners in this idealic way. I’d be upset if I were african american, heck, I’m white and upset
    Edited by moderator for language

  • Sam Katz

    FOREIGNID: 16302
    Bravo! to Katrina and her extended family for this excellent film.
    Of course, it had some of the technical difficulties mentioned on this blog: less than stellar sound, rough editing, and an amateur voiceover. But it wasn’t intended to be a slick piece of filmmaking; it’s a very personal family journey that somehow still conveys the universal message of feeling for the misery of others. It was effective and at times, gut-wrenching. I cried often while watching this: not because I could personally identify with the DeWolf’s, but because I felt pain for the participants and because slobbering emotion is my own cultural heritage: I’m Russian, and Russians love to wallow in long, drawn-out, tragic melodrama.
    I, like most in our current population, hail from late 19th and/or 20th century immigrant families, which creates the chief stumbling block to monetary reparations for African-Americans: we do not have family roots or ties to the slave trade, and therefore, cannot be asked to foot the monetary bill for what a small, but powerful, minority in this country did to exploit others over a century ago.
    But I think what the filmmakers are asking us to do is share in granting emotional reparations. And PBS has been airing a number of fine films recently that deal with the legacy of slavery. Some of them include Prince Among Slaves, based on the book by Terry Alford, and African American Lives with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. These are excellent presentations, and I urge fellow bloggers to catch them on DVD or when they are re-broadcast.
    Most families in our country did not hold slaves: only chiefly the wealthy. New York was the second-largest slave-holding state, second only to South Carolina. As discussed on this blog, some immigrants came here as white indentured servants. Vice President Andrew Johnson was an indentured servant held in bondage, as were Irish and British immigrants, and others.
    While many on this blog also mentioned the injustices committed against Native Americans, other discussed the little-known southern reality of Indian tribes holding slaves: Florida’s Native Americans, in their own sovereign reservations, held African-American slaves even after slavery was abolished for the rest of the U.S. Native Americans, additionally, perpetrated many grotesque, unwarranted atrocities on peaceful settlers: there is no simplistic way to look at the relationship between “red” and “white” Americans, any more than there is a simple way to look at “black” and “white” relations in modern times.
    And every immigrant group in this country faced vicious prejudice as they tried to assimilate: the Germans, the Irish, the Chinese, the eastern European Jews and those from the Czarist Pale, the Italians, the Japanese, the Puerto Ricans, the Cubans, and now the Mexicans. The difference is that the slaves were the only group brought here against their own will, while all others came here on their own volition.
    As many others on this blog mentioned, what this film did fail to touch upon was how prevalent slavery still is in the world today: in Africa, perpetuated by Arab Muslims against black Africans; worldwide, in the slavery of women and children in the forced sex trade; and in slave labor, in China, and in the far and Middle east. Just this week, a married couple were sentenced to prison in New York State for keeping two immigrant housekeepers in virtual bondage. They were charged under a federal indictment with forced labor, conspiracy, involuntary servitude and harboring aliens.
    So, for those on this blog who say “this is not my history” — you are wrong. It is all of our histories: maybe not in a direct family lineage like the DeWolf’s, but by virtue of just living on this planet.
    Slavery is an evil that needs to be addressed constantly, and not just in historical terms. You may not share the DeWolf family’s “guilt,” and it may not relate to your immediate heritage, but it is the universal heritage and history of the family of man.
    I urge PBS to keep broadcasting this film, and others that deal with this inhumanity, so that we can try to understand where it came from, what psychopathology it continues to stem from, and how to end it, once and for all.

  • Tom DeWolf

    FOREIGNID: 16303

    A few posts here and elsewhere have asked about the rhyme about Adjua and Pauledore, the two people who were brought as children from West Africa by James D’Wolf and given to his wife as a Christmas gift in 1803. When they grew up they married and had several children, all girls. Adjua lived until 1868. She is buried in the DeWolf cemetery not far from the grave of the man who enslaved her. Her headstone reads “Adjua D’Wolf.”
    From the book Inheriting the Trade (Beacon Press):
    “…late in life when Adjua and and Pauledore sat in the sun on the slanting entry to their cellar, James and Ann’s grandchildren created the poem to tease them.
    Adjua and Pauledore
    Sitting on the cellar door;
    Pauledore and Adjua;
    Sitting in the cellar way!
    Down fell the cellar door,
    Bump went Pauledore;
    Up flew the cellar way,
    Off blew Adjua!”

  • Dot Rutherford

    FOREIGNID: 16304
    I commend PBS for airing this, but in my area, it was on at 3:30 in the morning. I just happened to catch it.
    I think a possible solution to race matters in America would be to have everyone have a DNA test. People really do not know their entire ancestry, and, if you found out you had inter-racial DNA, you might be more concerned about the treatment given your ancestors.

  • David Keith

    FOREIGNID: 16305
    Dear Cousin Katrina,
    As I read other posts I see that your film is clearly succeeding in furthering discussion of slavery, racism, culpability, and, I hope, reconciliation. That is a great thing. It is also important to show that slavery was not just a sin of the South. I do, however, feel some responsibility to speak up for our grandmothers’ generation in particular, while not at all defending the horrors wrought by our more distant ancestors.
    The early home-movie images that open your film show mostly the Howes—your grandmother and her siblings including my grandmother—at a Fourth of July Parade. In the context of your movie, they are clearly the bad people, at least complicit by the code of silence you describe in the voice-over. At worst, the clips look like Leni Riefenstahl outtakes.
    But you fail to note that you are not the first to “out” the family. One of those people shown in your film (possibly writing about what the old film clip shows?) wrote: “In 1956 a hundred and forty-six of Mark Antony’s descendants gathered at the family’s remaining mansion on the Fourth of July. … Their morals were invisible. Their other great houses have vanished, but no one was ashamed, and some hardly knew, that they had all been built from the profits of the slave trade, or privateering, smuggling, and piracy.” [George Howe, “Mount Hope”, Viking Press, 1958, Chapt. IV: “The Slave Trade”] He also writes about the triangle trade, the use of the three plantations in Cuba as holding tanks till the prices were right, etc. This was not silence. I suppose there’s irony that, by being in your film’s opening, the accuser is now implicitly accused of the same indifference.
    Still, I believe my grandmother, and probably yours as well, were hurt by George’s book—not because they were proud of their heritage, but because he didn’t give them credit for their own moral struggles and shame that their ancestors had done terrible things. You don’t either. I think their response, whether or not it was as good a response as opening public discussion, was to try to live as constructively and—I’ll say the word even as WASP alarms buzz around me—lovingly as they could. Those people in the opening clips were not perfect, but they weren’t evil.
    You have re-opened an important discussion. In fighting arrogance and entitlement, though, I believe that underestimating the complexity of anybody can be another kind of arrogance. Our grandparents were complicated and wrong about a lot of things, but they were not indifferent.
    David Keith
    (Grandson of Eliza)

  • James DeWolf Perry

    FOREIGNID: 16306
    April, my cousin Tom posted the nursery rhyme before I could get to it. I would add two things in response to your thoughtful comments.
    We didn’t all have the resources to travel back in time and revisit the past. This was a documentary film project, and funds were raised (one way or another) for those of us who aren’t wealthy to make the trip. Which suggests that such projects can, in fact, be undertaken by any American family, provided that others can be convinced of the importance of the subject matter.
    This also wasn’t about healing which all of us needed. Several members of the family did express strong feelings — of guilt, shame, and fear, to name a few — which they believed required addressing in a project of this nature. Others of us, however, did not come to this project weighted down by a sense that we bore responsibility for the family’s past. Instead, we were motivated by a variety of concerns, including a belief that we have an obligation to do our part to use this family’s story to help illuminate the nation’s unexplored past and present-day legacy.

  • James DeWolf Perry

    FOREIGNID: 16307
    Stephen, you comment that:
    the legacy of Africa is example enough of black on black violence. … When will the people of African descent rise up and make Africa into a world economy instead of always demanding that the first world pay reparations?
    You seem to be conflating Africans with Americans of African ancestry here, but I gather your general point is that the nations of Africa are waiting for reparations and could, if they only tried, develop into first-rate economic powers. I think you’re overestimating the extent to which African nations are waiting for anything, and underestimating the impact of colonialism on the developing world.
    The nations of Africa missed out on the earlier waves of industrialization, and have since been caught in the trap of exporting raw materials and importing manufactured goods — not to mention the disastrous consequences of having artificial national boundaries imposed across social and tribal lines. No one has yet come up with the answers to these issues.
    Let them work in the AIDS Clinics in Africa. Why must the America join in the endless hand-wringing of “mea culpa, mea culpa”.
    In general, Stephen, your comments suggest a confusion between Americans descended from enslaved Africans, and Africans today. How would working in AIDS clinics in Africa address the legacy of the slave trade? The ancestors of today’s Africans participated eagerly in the slave trade, and prospered tremendously. The plight of Africa today, however we understand it, is not a consequence of the slave trade, whose effects in the U.S. and throughout this hemisphere you seem to dismiss as best left alone.

  • christina munoz

    FOREIGNID: 16308
    I was very intrigued by your documentary and I found very interesting that not only the “rich family” was getting richer by slavery but the whole town. I being from the Caribbean understand that we have all kinds of mixtures and relations between black and white. I think this documentary opens people’s eyes to the past and once we understand the past completely, we will able to change the future.

  • Jim

    FOREIGNID: 16309
    This film was a tedious observation of the narcissism of a group of middle aged, white, ivy-league graduates. They seem pretty removed from reality.

  • James DeWolf Perry

    FOREIGNID: 16310
    Sam, I think you’ve offered us a series of exceptionally helpful additions to the complex historical picture. I have a couple of thoughts, however, on what is otherwise an impressive historical account.
    Slaves were not just owned by the wealthy in this country. It’s true that much of slaveholding in the South was on large plantations. In the North, however, slaves were generally held by people who owned just one or two slaves, and these were often fairly prosperous citizens, but were frequently typical members of the middle class (artisans, shopkeepers, ministers, and so on).
    It’s true that many immigrant groups, in their turn, faced significant prejudice and other obstacles to assimilation. However, I wouldn’t say that the only difference between immigrants and slaves was the choice to come here.
    Immigrants arrived here, for the most part, to take advantage of jobs generated by a booming economiy founded on industralization made possible by slavery. Immigrants also arrived into a system which gave significant advantages to whites over blacks. Despite prejudice against Germans, Italians, other immigrant groups in turn, they faced nothing like the discrimination against black Americans, who after slavery endured another century of violence and blatant, lawful discrimination.
    As a result, I also disagree with your conclusion that you, and others descended from immigrants, did not inherit the benefits of slavery. You did, as surely as I did. The story of my family may be exceptional, but it is in microcosm the story of the nation when it comes to race and racial justice.

  • Ellen Yamamoto

    FOREIGNID: 16311
    I found this program very interesting. It showed an excellent example of “Man’s Inhumanity to Man” Your participants questioned how any human being could do this to another. One can find example in many recent historical events. Chinese can’t forget the Japanese atrocities of Nanking. How can a gentle and seemingly peaceful Japanese commit such heinous crimes? One has too look at how ideas, philosophies are formed in people. Japanese were brainwashed before WWII that Chinese were the same as animals and didn’t deserve human treatment. Perhaps the White slavers viewed Africans Blacks as “non-human” and eaiser to treat accordingly. Japanese now all know this was wrong. As long as the perpetrator is not forgiven, there will be no understanding and peace. Just as long as Black American refuse to “forgive” the perpetrator Whites, there will be no closure or Justice. There are more examples, i.e., in Central Asia Kazahs v.s. Tajiks, etc. I think one of the most difficult things for humans is to move forward and not to live in the past. In order to proceed forward, one must learn to forgive….hard but achievable.

  • Leslie

    FOREIGNID: 16312
    When the commentator states that Mark Anthony DeWolf was the first DeWolf and I know that is inaccurate; it makes me wonder about the rest of the story. He might have been the first DeWolf slave trader or the first Dewolf in Bristol, R.I. but he sure wasn’t the first in this country.
    I endured the film and plodded through the book only because I thought I might find some valid family history. Instead it’s a bunch of “woe is me”, mea culpa, physcobabbling, indulgent, rich people who wanted to write-off their trips to Africa and Cuba. Maybe I missed something but most of the black people that I saw them having conversations with in the film were educated.
    Do they really believe they were eating the same food as slaves? Did it ever cross their minds that people everywhere were pandering to them. Both in the book and in the film, it seems that all they want is people to validate what they are saying. They don’t really care about any other opinions or any other people that were ever slaves.
    I’m not going to say we live in a perfect world but we have made strides since slavery; but it seems more important to them to whine about ancestors rather than look at what is going on in the world today. This attitude of making reparations and entitlement is stupid; it just continues to foster the welfare system which isn’t accomplishing anything but taking my hard-earned money and giving it to freeloaders. Instead of whining why don’t they do something about the current day slavery. Seems to me more like they still want to sit in their ivory towers.
    These people need to get real!

  • James DeWolf Perry

    FOREIGNID: 16313
    Leslie, the narrator says that her grandmother wrote that “the first D’Wolf, Mark Anthony, came to Bristol as a sailor in 1744.” She doesn’t mean that he was the first D’Wolf in history, or in this country, merely that he was the first D’Wolf in Bristol.
    Mark Anthony D’Wolf, in fact, came to Bristol from Guadaloupe, in the West Indies. He may have been descended from the D’Wolfs who lived in Lyme, Connecticut, in the 17th century, but that’s not known for sure.
    I’m the one who said in the film that I felt the focus on white people, sitting around talking about their feelings about the slave trade, was “self-indulgent.” So I sympathize with your objection to the “physcobabbling,” and your desire that we not “whine about ancestors rather than look at what is going on in the world today.”
    However, since you watched the film and read the book, you’re aware that the legacy of slavery endures to this day. While it may not be healthy to dwell on the past, it is important to acknowledge our shared history and to address the injustices which remain from that time. Your “hard-earned money” and someone else’s “free-loading” aren’t entirely unconnected to the privileges and disadvantages which have been passed down through history.
    Also, for the record: we weren’t all “rich people”; you’re familiar with Tom’s background and I, at least, don’t even earn enough income to be able to take advantage of a “tax write-off,” even if I could have afforded to pay for that trip myself. We were indeed skeptical that this “slave meal” was really what slaves ate, and we were acutely aware that people wanted to treat us like royalty wherever we went.

  • Thomas

    FOREIGNID: 16314
    This family seems to have a lot of disposable time and money to make a film and travel. Good for them except that I didn’t see any of them pull out their checkbook and contribute. If you feel the need, by all means contribute to reparations. It seems though there is a more sinister agenda at work. My fear is that my or my children’s paystub will have a new deduction: the reparations tax. You may believe reparations are needed but please don’t project that into national policy. Your motive is wealth redistribution plain and simple. Please don’t contribute to the liberal propaganda and increase our already heavy tax burdon by adding guilt taxes.

  • Leslie

    FOREIGNID: 16315
    In either CT or R.I. you should be able to find the genealogy book by Carol Maginnis titled “The Dolphs” in the referrence section of the library. I’m sure Mark Anthony is in it. It is about the DeWolfe’s in the U.S. starting in Old Lyme, Ct. with Balthazar. In addition I have a genealogy map that shows Charles DeWolfe who was born in 1695 in Lyme, Ct. He married Margaret Potter in 1717 in Guadeloupe; Mark Anthony was their son. and I can go on back to Balthazar. My point is you did NOT thoroughly do your research.
    Yes, I read the book and I know Tom was forced to quit his job. Goes back to my point that it’s more of the “mea culpa” attitude; more of the “please forgive me” physcobabble. I found both the book and the film extremely irritating and lacking in substance. WHINEY!
    You are right, “hard-earned money” and someone else’s “free-loading” are not entirely “unconnected to the privileges and disadvantages which have been passed down through history”. But I live my life today and it’s what I make of it not what someone did in the past. Oh, maybe I have that wrong – should I ask my (fortunately) very distant relatives for reparation?
    The most important advice in the book came from Natalia: “Take a little of the earth and keep it. When you have a bad conscience over what they did two hundred years ago, you have your little bag and you say, ‘This is dead’, It’s like taking out all the bad influence”.
    It is important to address injustices that exist now. Slavery was not unique to blacks or the U.S. It goes back to the beginning of time and is still occurring today.

  • James DeWolf Perry

    FOREIGNID: 16316
    Thomas writes, “This family seems to have a lot of disposable time and money to make a film and travel.”
    Actually, Thomas, if you’ll recall, only 9 out of 200 people were able to join Katrina on the trip. That’s largely because it wasn’t easy for most of us to raise the funds necessary for the trip, or to find ways to take the time off.
    I’m sorry that you feel your paycheck may be docked for reparations for slavery. But please don’t accuse us of having a secret agenda. As you saw in the film, only one of the ten of us chose to support reparations.
    Leslie, we suspect that the D’Wolfs of Guadaloupe, where Mark Anthony came from, are descended from the D’Wolfs of Lyme, Conn. But no one has been able to demonstrate that connection; it remains merely speculation, despite the many books we have on the D’Wolf family.
    You also write, “I live my life today and it’s what I make of it not what someone did in the past.” This is an admirable attitude, and for the most part, I couldn’t agree more.
    However, I also agree with you that not everyone has the same chances that you do; as you put it, “it is important to address injustices that exist now.” In fact, historic slavery and discrimination have left injustices which persist to this day, and that’s the dilemma. I discuss this topic in more detail on our web site.

  • Afi Scruggs

    FOREIGNID: 16317
    I just saw this documentary tonight. It got very personal very quickly because I recognized my stepson as one of the participants in the vigil at the slave castle in Ghana. Knowing the mindset of the group who went, I can imagine some of the comments that the DeWolff descendants received and some of the anger directed at them.
    I, as an African American, am tired of carrying this anger at white folks. I’m really tired of rehashing injustice without working through it.
    I’ve also been to Goree Island, and was overwhelmed by the reality of the slave trade. It made me realize that I’m blessed to be here because my ancestors survived that Hell.
    So I can applaud those 10 DeWolff descendants because I can empathize with the psychic assaults they endured as they went from Bristol to Ghana and Cuba, confronting the costs of their privilege and status.
    Now, I think, we all need to open our hearts and work toward reconciliation.
    We’re on the dawning of a new day in the United States. It’s taken what, close to 250 years but we can finally see a way to overcome our history.

  • Sylvia

    FOREIGNID: 16318
    From my own family history and my own experience I carry many memories and thoughts. Passed down from my southern ancestors was the knowledge that the slaves were locked to their owners but abuse was rare because of the investment value of the slave. You don’t damage a valuable asset. Passed down from the immigrant northern side was the knowledge that indenture was another name for slavery. It was white, but it was slavery. From the Indian side was the knowledge that the only good Indian was a dead one. Forced reservation confinement and taking children from parents to imprison them in indian schools was slavery. Mans horrid treatment of dissimilar, smaller cultures has been standard from the moment the cavemen discovered a different kind of caveman. It is the awful nature of man the predator.
    The Indians have a saying “do not judge a man until you have walked a mile in his moccasins.” Experiencing a life moment of another culture is difficult. It isn’t felt in going to a racially mixed school, a black/white neighborhood or a black/white church. I have experienced being the only white in a totally black environment and it was felt in the heart not the brain. I did briefly walk in another mans moccasins and it brought an understanding at a very different level. Can that be done through two entire cultures? Probably not.

  • Tim McGruder

    FOREIGNID: 16319
    I stumbled across Traces of the trade late in the night, but couldn’t tun it off when I knew that I should go to bed. After seeing Thomas say in Bristol that he couldn’t vilify his ancestors because he hadn’t walked in their shoes and because the practice of slavery was community-wide aceptable practice, and then later at the Ginea Coast, in the dungeon where Africans had been herded, while he contemplated the atrocious conditions, he says to the camera angrily that what his ancestors had done was “wrong, they knew it and they did it anyway”, was the expression of a cathartic experience from a real person captured on film that doesn’t compare to anything I’ve ever seen. Although I have no idea of the involvement of my ancestors in slavery, as an American citizen, it is unbelievable that we have come such a short distance in making reparations.

  • James DeWolf Perry

    FOREIGNID: 16320
    Afi, I really appreciated reading your comments, particularly given that your stepson participated in the Emancipation Day vigil at Cape Coast Castle.
    I want to assure you, though, that whatever the mindset of the participants, we experienced almost no hard feelings from the African Americans visting Cape Coast. My uncle Dain’s experience, where one woman declined to shake his hand, was unique during our stay, and most people seemed to share the positive attitude which you express here.
    Sylvia, you write about slaves that “abuse was rare because of the investment value of the slave. You don’t damage a valuable asset.”
    Slaves were indeed valuable “property,” and great care was generally taken to try to keep them alive and able to work. However, abuse was quite common. There was little incentive not to whip, beat, or rape slaves, and their productivity as laborers was not seen as connected to such non-physical abuse as depriving them of family life, religion, culture, or human dignity; these things often happened.
    I do agree with you, though, that history teaches that many peoples have been oppressed, often in strikingly parallel ways, and we would be wise to bear this in mind.

  • Thomas

    FOREIGNID: 16321
    Maybe there is no agenda at all. However, you must admit that films such as yours fuels the fire of the reparations movement. I agree that slavery in America was a horrible event. But what dollar amount will fix it? A million? A billion? A trillion? and who gets the money? Who pays? Who determines who pays? Will the money really solve anything? African Americans and indeed all Americans have ample resources to succeed and thrive in our society. Many choose not to take advantage. Money won’t generate desire and drive to better oneself. Nor will legislation. Perhaps the reparations windfall would be better spent on helping modern day slavery that exists in many forms worldwide including the US.

  • James DeWolf Perry

    FOREIGNID: 16322
    Thomas, I agree with your skepticism about reparations as a plan to hand out money to people. I also share your desire that we focus significant attention on modern-day injustices such as contemporary slavery.
    As for your analysis of the plight of black Americans today, your approach makes perfect sense … if we assume that most or all of the inequality between white and black Americans exists because blacks simply “choose not to take advantage” of the “ample resources” available to them.
    In fact, I believe that economists and others have demonstrated clear, irrefutable links between slavery and discrimination, on the one hand, and the socioeconomic disparities between white and black citizens today. If that’s true, then a lack of “desire and drive to better oneself” could only explain part of the problem, at most — and to solve the problem your way would require that blacks work much, much harder than whites in order to catch up.
    If you don’t believe what researchers have concluded, there may be a simpler way to look at this. If you’re right that many blacks simply “choose not to take advantage” of “ample resources to succeed and thrive,” then wouldn’t we expect to see a wide and ever-increasing divide among the black community, between those who choose to take advantage, and those who don’t? In fact, that isn’t the pattern we observe at all, leading me to suspect that this theory of yours isn’t particularly likely to be correct.

  • Dave Post

    FOREIGNID: 16323
    I think this family should apologize to white people as well as Africans. If it weren’t for their wretched family at least a half million african americans would still be in Africa living the good life there and we wouldn’t have to listen to them constantly complaining about how awful it is here. Let’s all get together and find a way to get the DeWolfes out of America…go away…leave …all your family has done is to hurt whites and blacks for their own financial gain. I’m listening to the show now and one of you just asked what you can do now. The answer is to go away, move to Africa and offer yourselves up as slaves.
    Edited by the moderator for language

  • April Miller

    FOREIGNID: 16324
    Dave Post,
    The disdain you show here is exactly what should be abolished. Is your family history perfect in that none of them has commited a horrible act against another? I can say without a doubt, No. Just the way that you can not apologize for your families past they can not either. They hold no more guilt in it then you do. The best that can be done is to treat others as you would want to be treated. If that doesn’t happen, then that is on that person.
    Be reasonable Dave, if you are a reasoning man.

  • Adjua

    FOREIGNID: 16325
    There is a very important moment in “Traces of the Trade” where the DeWolf’s are told by a Ghanaian that only African “kings” were to blame for a role in slavery, inferring that it should hang on the Europeans. So what we are witnessing are very WASPy people reaching out to deal with the terrible deeds of their ancestors (some too uptight to emotionally vent, others shamed into utter denial) and an African who himself is in denial, who refuses to acknowledge that entire African tribes were complicit and benefited from the capture and sale of slaves. A fascinating illustration of the complexities of responsibility. I wondered about interviewing Africans now who had benefited in some way from this trade, especially those currently dealing with slavery such as the “trokosi” female slaves (see the BBC’s “Ghana’s Trapped Slaves,” 8 Feb. 2001) and the New York Times article on families selling their own children “Africa’s World of Forced Labor, in a 6-Year-Old’s Eyes” by Sharon LaFraniere, 29 Oct. 2006. (Oprah did a follow up on this story in a show called, “The Little Boy Oprah Could Not Forget.”) For all the awkward moments, I appreciate the DeWolf’s coming forward and I should hope that those such as James the 6th, raise funds and sponsor a Harvard scholarship specifically for African-Americans to atone for his snobbery, and that Dain reconsider his offense the moment a black woman told him not to bother her during a sacred pilgrimage, and that that woman now refrain from complaint when she feels whites are not willing to address their role in our mutual history. I want to thank Ms. Browne for her efforts and suggest working towards city, state, industry acknowledgment/apologies might be the best way to move forward for this family.

  • Dave Post

    FOREIGNID: 16326
    I’m just trying to say that as long as we continue to dwell on the past and keep harboring all these old hatreds we will never get past this crap. I’m sick of African Americans continuing to use this stuff as an excuse for bad behavior. If I hear Sharpton or Jackson or any of them using racism or the pain of slavery as an excuse I’m going to puke. I think their slave ancesters would be ashamed of the way they act. The slaves lived with so much humiliation and pain and these babies can’t get their act together just thinking of the pain? Give me a break, they need to join the real world and step up to the plate and admit they like being able to throw this stuff in our face and people like the DeWolfs just encourage it.
    There is racism of course, and I find no excuse for that either. Whites have more than our share of morons who continue to hate people of other races for no other reason than to try and feel good about themselves.
    As someone in the show said slavery has been around for ever and many races have been enslaved but it’s only now with all the white guilt and blacks willing to exploit it that we have to keep hearing about it all the time.
    So everyone get over your guilt and just treat everyone as fair and decently as you can. As far as African Americans go, when will you realize that your continuing to push for affirmitive action and reparations when it really isn’t needed anymore just makes it tougher for you to gain total acceptance.

  • Babalola

    FOREIGNID: 16327
    Much of the discussion here has been about whether or not white people today should feel guilty about the legacy of the trans-atlantic slave trade.We will have to look at the issue as a matter of choice. People don’t have to feel guilty if they don’t want to, especially since the atrocious event in question was perpetrated by their ancestors hubdreds of years ago. However, such people should not stand in the way of other white people who have genuine sense of remorse concerning the issue. No multi cultural society can survive without reciprocal compromise and genuine desire in people to reconcile differences and ease social tensions from time to time. Social behayior and attitude that can achieve these ideals should be embraced and practiced by everyone that values sustainable peace in their environment. Most of us are concerned about the legacy of slavery today because we were directly or indirectly impacted or affected by it, and it is possible that that is why we all cared to watch the documentary film about it. That is probably the reason why we are all talking about it passionately on this blogsite. I think we should let our sense of concern take us to the point of taking positive steps towards achieving cultural harmony, tearing down the thick walls of discrimination and racism and giving truly equal opportunity to pursue happiness in this country.
    Though, many who show no sense of guilt or concern may be excused in the spirit of freedom of expression, but it seems feeling guilt works like a reflex action. If you feel it you feel it. The question is what do you do with it. You can admit your guilt and let it be your springboard to reconciliation and personal sense of freedom. The reality of the relative privilege enjoyed by whites in general is enough to make the consciencous among them feel at least concerned about mitigating the effects of slavery on modern socity and its peoples. Those who fight their feeling of guilt often show it in other ways – expression of fear and attitude of segregation or aloofneess, to say the least.

  • James DeWolf Perry

    FOREIGNID: 16328
    Thanks for posting, “Adjua.” I think you’ve given us a lot to think about.
    You’re quite right that, contrary to what Professor Addo-Fening says in the film, entire African societies benefited enormously from the slave trade. While it may not be possible, after two centuries of colonialism and decolonization, to identify those living today who have benefited, this is indeed an important illustration of the nuances of history and moral responsibility.
    Not surprisingly, I would be very interested to know which family members you thought were shamed into utter denial, and which were unable to vent emotionally. I didn’t have the sense, myself, that any of the family members fit into either of those two categories, but I could easily be wrong.
    Naturally, I would be even more interested to hear just what, in the film, you consider to be my snobbery, and why you believe that I should go around trying to raise funds for a scholarship for black students. While I’m certainly privileged as a white person in this society, and bear my share of social responsibility along with everyone else, it hadn’t occurred to me that I have anything to “atone” for. Thanks!

  • Adjua

    FOREIGNID: 16329
    James, thank you for being open to this discussion.
    What I meant by snobbery was the remark you made about getting into Harvard. I don’t doubt that you are worthy, intelligent, and hardworking but I find it beyond naïve (hence, snobbish) to think that your family connections did not play into your acceptance. No, it’s not your fault if you had an advantage but it’s highly impolite to throw it out as a given based on you simply being wonderful you. There are hundreds of thousands of wonderful yous out there that never had that opportunity despite all the stunning, self-earned credentials. My suggestion of a scholarship was if you wanted to pass on an advantage in your own way, a way that would be respectful on many levels and also give back to the greater community. If you don’t feel this, of course, it would be a hollow gesture. I’m just thinking that there will come a time when you cringe at this footage.
    Another point about ironic complexities that could dovetail with “Traces” was illustrated in “African American Lives 1” where Chris Tucker goes to Africa to visit his DNA relatives. They welcome him but clearly the people have a very harsh, downtrodden spirit, even the children appear hardened by something far beyond poverty. Tucker is moved by his experience but one can also see that realization—for all the horrors of slavery, Tucker grew up with running water, electricity, food on the table, and a free education. Tucker is looking at the legacy of slavery much differently now—would he have wanted to grow up in Africa?—absolutely not. I believe in coming to terms with our mutual histories (benefit, guilt, repercussions) this point needs to be acknowledged as well.

  • Cole Kirkpatrick

    FOREIGNID: 16330
    The idea of reparations to African Americans is completely preposterous. I caught the tail end of the documentary so I can only imagine what filth I missed. I did hear Ms. Brown speak of reconciliation. Everybody understands slavery maybe wasn’t the best idea but neither was killing developmentally challenged people which was a common practice around the same time as slavery. Where are their reparations? What would be considered exceptable reparations, money? I already pay taxes which go to fund agencies such as medicaid, medicare, wellfare, and so on. Ms. Browne also made the comment “The American economy’s foundation lies on slavery.” I’m pretty certain the foundation of the American economy lies on J.D. Rockefeller and the industrial revolution. Reparation to me would be figuring out why 41% of the prison population is black yet they make up only 12.4 percent of the U.S. population or why seven out of ten black children have no father figure. Blacks aren’t the only race who have been enslaved. My Irish ancestors were endentured servants but you don’t hear them crying about repartaions. The reason being they cared more about their kids than they do themselves and did without so their next generation would have a better life. You want reparations? Get them from the tribe in Africa that sold it’s own people. Had there not been slavery black people wouldn’t be able to blow away their free education they are given is this country. I refuse to feel guilty for something I had no part in and furthermore, I believe slaves had better lives as slaves than they did running from lions in Africa. Reparations for slavery is reverse racism. Expecting white people today to take responsibillity for something we had no control over just because we’re white.
    There are more black men in prison than in college.
    Out of 2,299,116 prisoners in America 41% are black, 26% are white, 20.8% are hispanic.
    12.4% of the American population is black.
    Common opinions that could also be fact:
    African American culture makes crimes such as murder, drug dealing, and drug use exceptable and even glamorous.
    edited by moderator for language

  • pat

    FOREIGNID: 16331
    I appreciated this film, and have mixed feellings about it. Slavery was a terrible thing, no doubt about it. My family was from the South, at least part of it, and they were likely implicated. But how far does my guilt go?? I notice there was no mention of the treatment of the people who we took this land from. I could have had ancestors who butchered and or otherwise participated in that travesty. But to go farther back…. as a white American of European ancestry (Dutch, French, and English), lets see am I responsible for how the Romans enslaved all of Europe? or how my ancestors sailed the seas and made colonies of and robbed many of the countries in this world? Or perhaps we should go back to the Huns….. I don’t know European history that well. The point is, if we go back far enough (or maybe even not that far) we will all (no matter what race or ethnic origin) find some atrocity we could maybe feel responsible for.
    I got tired years ago of being guilty because I am white. What I now do instead is strive to treat everyone the same, and to fight that racism that was inculcated in me just because I live in this society. And I do what i can on the political level.
    I will bring up one more thing which no one has brought up. This country (and maybe all countries) are really the product of wave after wave of immigrants, many of whom started with nothing. Yet most of them seem to have managed to make their place, even those who are extremely different physically, the Asians. So, what’s different about the African-Americans? I believe they are still carrying the burden of believing themselves second-class citizens that was placed upon them for hundreds of years. Now they are in the process of overcoming this psychological disadvantage. Guilt and reparations won’t change anything. What will speed up the process is to open our hearts to all, eliminate any vestiges of institutionalized racism, and provide a strong and free education system.

  • Babalola

    FOREIGNID: 16332
    For those interested in reading about the experience of notable enslaved Africans like Olaudah Equiano, Quobnah Ottobah and others please visit
    On that BBC website you will also find articles written by historians and researchers about how the slave trade started, the role of African enslavers, how the trade was strategically conducted, how the Bank of England and the English christian church bacme involved in it, how the major commercial and banking institutions in Britain were built from trade in regular commodities, but sustained by slave labour,.
    This is highly recommended for JANIE BEHR as an alternative source of information on trans-atlantic slave trade.

  • Amanda

    FOREIGNID: 16333
    It saddens me to see the amount of hostility and anger, as well as downright hatred, being dispensed in a large number of these comments. Many individuals feel that they should not have to feel any guilt for something that they themselves did not do – and even some, who’s ancestors, despite having white skin, were themselves the victims of racism in this country and abroad. There are, just as the Ghanian historian spoke about in the film, countless circumstances of slavery and inequality throughout the world’s history. That is certainly a valid fact, however, what we Americans must realize is that not all instances of slavery and inequality throughout the world are the same. We live in America, and as American citizens, we are all responsible for being aware and knowledgeable about the history of this country, the history of our families, and the affect we have had on the rest of the world. We are responsible, all of us, for slavery – for knowing about it, for teaching about it, for expressing a constructive means to heal the deep divide it has caused in our country and among our people because it is apart of American history. (When I say our people, I mean all Americans – I am a bi-racial American and believe that we cannot keep referring to “my people,” as those associated only to you through the color of their skin. We have to stop generalizing, and we have to start recognizing that we are all people – we are all Americans and we are all responsible.)
    Everyone must be real and honest and realize that being white in this country – whether your family was involved in slavery or not, brings with it a level of privilege that those with brown skin will never be able to have. I would recommend reading “Whiteness of a Different Color” by Jacobsen. The Irish were once called the “n” word and were treated as such. In fact, many European immigrants lived exceptionally hard lives. But they were able, in time to become “white”. Black individuals in this country will never be white. And so this legacy of slavery becomes the reflection of this divide. But we all need to take responsibility – for ourselves first in creating the kind of life for ourselves that we would want for all Americans, and for our country second – to understand it’s past in relation to it’s future. Can you imagine if we all just took responsibility, what a truly GREAT country this would be?
    I value reparation as a process, not necessarily as a financial transaction, but rather one of making amends. This involves honesty. This is the process this film begins to document.
    And, frankly, I hope the commenter before me can learn to be responsible with his words.

  • Mary E. Sayler

    FOREIGNID: 16334
    I enjoyed TRACES OF THE TRADE and the work your family put into attempting to put a voice to this part of our colective history. Two years ago I found out apart of my families history that we were not aware of on any level. We are decended from Anthony Jansen Van Salee who was born in Morocco around 1607. He was half Dutch and half Arab. His father was Jan Jansen Van Haarlem, better known as Morat Reis, King of the Barbary Coast Pirates. Jan Van Haarlem as part of job was also a slaver. He captured slaves in the various coutries of Europe. His activities in Ireland are recorded in the poem THE SACK OF BALTIMORE where he took captive 108 men as slaves to his Arab masters. This was happening during the late 16th and early 17th centuries.
    Anthony Van Salee came to New Amsterdam (now New York) in 1630. His property was on what is now Wall Street. His daughter Annica married Thomas Southard and from there the line goes down to me Great-great-grandmother Priscilla Ann Little Southard. Her father’s older brother Henry Southard served in the House of Representative (1801-1811) for New Jersey. Henry was also a slave holder in 1808, 1810, and 1813.
    Henry’s son Samuel Lewis Southard was a member of the committee that wrote the Missouri Compromise which defined the Slave and Non-slave areas of the US.
    Both of Priscilla’s husbands fought on the Union side during the Civil War. As you can see my family has been involved in all facets of the slavery problem. Do I feel guilt? I don’t think so but I do have a better understanding of the whole problem along with the realization that the problems that enslavement presents to all peoples involved is still with us today. Hate to say it but it is alive and We as a nation, we as a people have a lot of work to do to make us all whole again.

  • James DeWolf Perry

    FOREIGNID: 16335
    Adjua, thanks so much for continuing to talk with us about these issues.
    You were thinking of my father, Jim, who talks in the film about getting into Harvard. I agree that his remark was not perceptive, and what you don’t see in the film is that I immediately responded that I thought getting into Harvard had everything to do with family and environment, and before long, he agreed, too.
    In thinking about how this kind of privilege works, you should know that my father didn’t get into Harvard because of family connections. He got in because he got excellent grades at a top school, the kind that Harvard doesn’t turn down, and I think this is what, in turn, was much easier for him because of his family background. He was raised a minister’s son, in a comfortable home provided by the parish, by parents who were well-educated and gave him every advantage to do well in school.

  • James DeWolf Perry

    FOREIGNID: 16336
    Pat, you raise an excellent point when you ask why blacks have not been able to succeed in this country, to the same extent as wave after wave of immigrants. The fact is that until quite recently, white immigrants arrived in this country to face vastly different opportunities than the descendants of former slaves were encountering. Jim Crow laws and lynchings were widespread but dramatic examples; mundane violence and job discrimination were less noticed but even more prevalent.
    You rightly point out that Asian immigrants arriving in recent decades have succeeded quite well. (In the 19th and early 20th centuries, the situation was entirely different.) However, those immigrants have often arrived with at least modest savings, education, and job skills, and much more importantly, with intact family structures, culture, and religion. Without comparing that situation to what black families were left with after slavery, and what they had to endure across the following generations, it’s difficult to compare levels of success and prosperity.
    Amanda, I really enjoyed reading your comment, particularly your belief that despite the lingering difficulties of race in this country, we do not have to see only the divisions — “we are all Americans and we are all responsible.”

  • Hansani Archibald

    FOREIGNID: 16337
    I commend you for this documentary. As Black Caribbean-American watching your journey with all your struggles, confusion was also healing to me. I can’t imagine what it feels like to confront such family past of slave trading when you yourself were not responsible. But yet you used it to gain an understanding and to take responsibility. You guys took a step to confront what is behind the confusion and anger between black and white americans that many people are to uncomfortable to confront. Instead they would rather isolate themselves from a rich first hand experience that could promote the healing that the United States needs.
    Even for those whose families had nothing to do with the slave trade, I hope they will someday understand that even today they benefit from slavery and that they should not “feel anxiety” when it is part of the very fabric of this country.

  • Renee jackson

    FOREIGNID: 16338
    I recently changed states for a job, once in the position, it was made clear to me that I was not suppose to be there and I was fired 6wk later. While I knew this job was a dream come true and that I had slipped under someone radar, that was soon corrected.
    While admissions of passed sins and present injustices gives me a sign of relief and is good to hear, but when can I work beside you and reap the benefits of the American dream.

  • Juan Miranda

    FOREIGNID: 16339
    I love PBS, but this is ridiculous. Seriously, a bunch of -supposedly- smart Ivy Leaguers could have come up with something so much more meaningful than this. The whole thing is a “mea culpa” that doesn’t even seem heartfelt. It has no inspiration, it feels acted and plain dumb. You guys take yourselves too seriously.

  • James Rink

    FOREIGNID: 16340
    This is the dominating issue which drives US politics and policies, yet we don’t talk about it, or if we do, we speak in code.
    Proof? 38% of those who vote unwaverly for “states rights” candidates and against “affirmative action” candidates live in eleven states. I’ll let you guess which states are the eleven. Those states comprise less than 20% of the US electorate.

  • Denise Hawkins

    FOREIGNID: 16341
    I’m glad to see that the younger generation (WHITE) is trying to make the differance and telling there Great Great ,Greats,Grand parents that there were just as wrong and have reep what they have today from Black people.

  • Otto

    FOREIGNID: 16342
    Thanks for holding up the mirror of truth to not only your family, but to America as well. You guys are my new found heros. White people and blacks alike, “we shall overcome some day!” And your film is truly a step in that direction. America as a nation, “United We Stand, Divided We Fall.”
    Give peace a chance!
    One love!

  • jethrogump

    FOREIGNID: 16343
    The most cogent response was from the black woman who refused to talk with the penitents.
    Edited by moderator for language

  • len

    FOREIGNID: 16344
    Recently the Canadian Government apoligized for ‘Residential Schools’ run by the Catholic Church which were the worst example of social engineering and ultimately a form of cultural genocide. Reparations were part of the mix and there is controversy about the benefit. At the same time I think Canadians are coming to terms with their past and in many communities aboriginals and euro’s are the minority.
    I was a supervisor in Macon, Georgia for 5 years in a facility with a 60% black hourly staff and 80% white management. Although, one of the best Process Control Engineers I met was a young Black lady at that facility. Still the racial divide was evident and as a Western Canadian one of my operators made me an honorary ‘Black Man’. I’m sorry but I just didn’t fit into Southern white culture.
    I have come to regard race as primarily over-rated ‘family lines’ and I believe Biology is proving me right. We are identical. The nuances are purely for taste and opinion and I have been convinced …
    Although I resisted the idea of reparations the Canadian experience has changed my mind. For the Cherokee we should hang President Jackson in ephagy, but now I have come to understand he kept the Slave Trade going as well even in the North … even ilegally. It appears he had almost no respect for juris prudence and rule of law.
    Admit it America and apologize and even figure out a way to ‘pay up’ constructively.

  • jasmine

    FOREIGNID: 16345
    as an afram woman i personally do not wish for reperations. i dont need any money from white people. slavery was horrible but i dont need an apology-its part of american history.but ask me if i feel like a second class citizen sometimes. i dont get angry about slavery. if there’d be anything i could say in a sit down it would be : dont ignore me…im right here and i deserve to be here the same as you do. i matter. but i have to admit one thing that still gets to me. watching katrina with her family and just being able to go back to a certain place in history 200+ years ago and say that her ancestor was there is something i envy. i dont know my story. i want that….and something else…respect. respect as an american. im not an african. i inherited certain dominant traits like my brown skin and my full hips, thighs and buttocks but i am an AMERICAN-born and bread.

  • Sharon Holmes Thomas

    FOREIGNID: 16346
    I only caught part of the broadcast tonight, but I found it very interesting. I would like to thank Ms. Browne and the other ancestors for their hard work and the feelings they have towards what happened in the past. At this point Ms. Browne, I don’t know what can actually be done-other than prayer on both sides. I do believe that by airing these feelings, it may get others whose ancestors probably had a hand in slavery to think about what was done to African Americans and why we are the way we are. I feel like African Americans are always playing catchup. It’s like we’ve got to play the game, but the game had already started and we didn’t get to hear the rules. If it were not for God-we would be no where. I’m not trying to make anyone feel guilty, because as a christian it is my duty to forgive and forget. I know this happened in the north, but I live in the south. It is not as bad as it used to be, but we still have a long, long way to go. I have so many feelings and emotions when it comes to inequality until I’m probably not expressing myself as well as I should. I am very grateful to all of you for at least thinking about us as a people and what we go through in our dail lives. May God richly bless you and please realize even though they were your ancestors, you personally didn’t do it. May you findpeace about the wholesituation.

  • KTC

    FOREIGNID: 16347
    First, I’d like to offer a big thanks to the makers and participants of this film. It took a lot of guts to put it out there and be willing to walk down the road of truth and integrity in learning the truth about your ancestors. If only more people (from all backgrounds) would do the same!
    I agree with the idea of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission. This goes far beyond the United States and is far more pervasive than any monetary compensation could cover within the structure of our society. It’s only by lancing this festering boil through public discussion with strenuous efforts toward a social communion that we’re even going to begin to get anywhere.
    We, that is the “We” of Humanity, have got to begin to see each other as more than colors, religions, or a “them” and “us”.

  • Kurt Bonifay

    FOREIGNID: 16348
    I watched this show Sunday night, and I am struck that the innocent Yankee families of Rhode Island and the Northeast in general have such ignorance of history. I recall the Triangle of Trade being taught in my junior high school years. It is clear to me now that the North’s conquest of the South was not really to abolish slavery, but to insure that the South and its assets were not to be free to trade with whomever they pleased. The cotton from the South, tended by slave labor to a large extent, was to be sold to only ONE customer, and that was the Northern mills. Industry was not allowed to be sited in the South, and there were egregious tariff laws passed to make sure that English machinery could not be obtained. It is with some delight that the tearful realization of the role of Northern ancestors in the despicable slave trade is finally being recognized. Maybe someday we will see a documentary by one of Lincoln’s or Sherman’s descendants about the ruin that was brought to the Southern people and infrastructure during the War and after in that so beneficent “Reconstruction.” What a joke. The occupation of the South has been an ongoing process, and there is little history written that tells these truths. There is much more hidden history than just that of the slaves. I look forward to release of correspondence between Lincoln and his Generals, both during and after the War. Shocking will be an operative word, I predict.

  • Fred

    FOREIGNID: 16349
    I am a white male of 55yrs. of age, from the east coast of the US. After seeing this program on slavery, it did my heart good, to see some of blind that are starting to open there eyes to the madness that is, and still roaming in the heart of mankind! The reason that white society does not see the evil that has and does accure through out history, is that we as a race use competition as an excuse to step on anyone that gets in our way from winning. I do not mean that all white people are like this, but for too long have we been trained to win at all cost.! And Greed and Pride has dictated the rules of wealth and statis. Just like the African said about slavery, since the beginning of human history, we as a people (human beings) have looked the other way when it came to slavery as long as it benifited us in one way or another. It seems like it was all white people who started this, but in truth and in history, it did not matter what color you where! As long as you were trying to compete, it was good business to have free labor. The bad that exist in all of us, has to be controled and understood so that we all can find away to stand up for what is right and do the proper thing. That is to treat everyone as an equal, and to think of what is good for our planet as a whole. Not our greed and statis.

  • Sharese Louise Williams

    FOREIGNID: 16350
    Dear Katrina,
    Thank you for your amazing film. I cried most of the way through as I saw myself in your journey and I can indentify with why making this moving was so important to you.
    My Great-Grandmother was from the south (our ancestors owned slaves) and was extremely racist. Luckily my Grandmother realized how wrong racisim is and left for college in Colorado as soon as she was old enough. She met my Grandfather there and eventually they moved with their children to Oregon where our family still resides. My Grandmother was extremely non-racist and taught her family the same.
    My question is: How do I deal with how incredibly sad I feel about what my ancestors did to Africans without making it about me? I know it has to be about me at some level, but I wish it could be healing for more than just me.
    Thanks for your consideration,
    Sharese Williams

  • KTC

    FOREIGNID: 16351
    Posted by Julie:
    “My other ancestors came recently from Scandinavia, which did not have a slave trade. If you want to shed a tear, watch “The Immigrants” with Liv Ullman.”
    Actually, parts of Scandinavia were complicit in the slave trade. Kindly check your history BEFORE spouting off.

  • Emma Lee Weibel

    FOREIGNID: 16352
    This is a terrific film, and it is a thrilling surprise that the conversation has rather reopend just recently, after being closed since about the early 70′s. I have several thoughts. Much credit is due to the young lady who wanted to ask about her family.
    1. One comment at least mentioned that the writer’s family came after the civil war so they have no part in it. I often think this is true of recent immigrants. They think that this is the business of “those Americans” already here. But this isn’t so and folks who want to join this nation need to be willing to take on all aspects of American life and tradition, not just the part that may be personally rewarding financially or socially or educationally. This is everyone’s task to “get right” on this issue if you want to call yourself an American, and indeed many new immigrants are not right on race at all and they need to pay attention! They are no better than the rest of us and sometimes worse on racial issues. Americans could show the way to the world, as the world shrinks and more nations formerly unicultural become multicultural if only we would make the effort to really understand our racial problems .
    2. One duty of whites is to make up for their lack of adequate education in black history. I sorely feel this lack and have been reading for 40 years, and still have jaw-dropping experiences as I read. I appreciate the suggested reading list and have copied it to start working on, tho I have a lot of Black History books standing in line right now, and am currently reading. But I will add these. Every person has a responsibility to try to get up to speed on this issue, needs to read old slave narratives and other old memoirs, needs to read modern thought from black thinkers, needs to make an effort to know African Americans and to enter into their culture, just as the lady in the film said, needs to see documentaries when they come around, such as this one, and another recently seen in some theaters, about turning all blacks out of small towns in the early 20th century. (the night that film showed, very few people were in attendance. )There is no excuse for persistant and willful ignorance of this history.
    3. White people in their 20′s and early 30′s have been taught in high school that the problem is mostly over, solved in the 60′s-70′s. Whatever is left is bad behavior on the part of some of those inner city blacks who need to get over it. My son got this impression in his suburban high school. It took me a few years to disabuse him of this notion. The curriculum for teaching about the civil rights movement and the implications of the experience of slavery on the culture, needs to be edited for this kind of “feel good” mentality.
    4. White people need to talk to themselves and among themselves until they understand that a formal apology and something more is due Africans Americans. Until they understand this, they haven’t even started. I haven’t a lot of hope for this since whites so readily get upset about quotas in college, completely forgetting that getting into a fine college on a legacy (your parents went there) is affirmative action for whites. They need to look in their own lives for other instances of hidden affirmative action for European Americans.
    This is just a start. But each of us needs to be ready to take an interest in African American affairs, and stop being bored with it or tired of it, and step up and be ready to take part. I sound harshly critical, but I am! I am sorry but I do not feel that my own race is carrying its load and I am not very patient with people who are tired of the issue! I am not any sort of masochist: Oh I’m so guilty, so guilty. No. I feel OK because I feel as if I am trying. I feel sorry for what has happened. My own family owned slaves in Kentucky, but left as the war was starting and have had neither money nor status since. It took until my generation for us to begin to get higher educations. But I feel very much disappointed in the lack of interest shown by so many of my own race.

  • Carolina Butler

    FOREIGNID: 16353
    It is perfectly shameful that in our Nation’s capital we had to wait until 11:30 PM on a Sunday night (6/29/08) to see the first airing of this important documentary. Is it because D.C. is 95% African American? Or is it tied to being taxed, but not having representation in Congress? What gives?
    First of all, I’d like to apologize for some of the embarrassingly ignorant comments made by some of my more recent fellow-émigrés from Ireland. They say that they arrived after slavery and shouldn’t have to pay reparations…the gall. When you come to America and become an American citizen you don’t get to pick and choose what aspects of Her legacy you want to be a part of. You take Her as She is… warts and all, And if it is too much to ask of you to give a little or sacrifice a little to do whatever it takes to make our country better, stronger, healthier and happier, then YOU came here for the WRONG reasons.
    My Irish ancestor was a direct descendant of Rory O’Moore of the great but failed Irish Rebellion of 1640. I’d like to think that Rory who fought so bravely against British oppression would turn in his grave to know that two of his descendants became Governors of the Carolinas, made so by the British Crown, and they became oppressors themselves- Slave Masters. Don’t you suppose on a tiny island like Eire with a population of only 4 million at the start of the Famine, living together for millennia, isolated except for a few Norsemen, Spaniards, Frenchmen and Scotts, that there isn’t any Irish man or woman somehow RELATED to one of the innumerable EARLY Irish émigrés that owned slaves? Let’s face up to it…Irish hands aren’t clean either.
    So, even if you’re just recently American, you have an obligation to honor the memory of all those good Americans that came over before you who didn’t earn a penny for their labor… for generations. They didn’t work for free by choice. No American immigrant group has ever been required to work for free for 200+ years. There is no question that this nation has an unpaid debt. What are you complaining about?
    The least we can do is recognize this fact and try to make amends to the descendants of American slaves who contributed so much to the economy of this country that we have ALL benefited from. What we need to discuss now is not how much, but how soon can we start and how best to do it.
    If not for three assassinations of America’s best leaders, most of this would have been resolved 40 years ago.

  • Kimberly

    FOREIGNID: 16354
    We cannot tiptoe through the pages of history and make reparations for every wrongdoing. This is madness. No material thing can ever heal a broken heart or mind.. The only way to freedom is through education, which brings about understanding, compassion and forgiveness. This is the reparatin that people really want.. We don’t have to forget the past, just learn from it. We don’t need to pay reparations, just work towards a better future. Slavery has been around for milleniums. It was imported to America and is no longer accepted here. There are residual negative beliefs from the past, but by and large, Americans are good hearted people. A good therapist could help Ms. Browne with these issues. I have my own issues, but they do not involve slavery. If all of us worked on our own stuff, the world would be a more peaceful place. We as Americans love to focus on the positive, and when we work together anything is possible. I just don’t believe that focusing on the past and assigning blame is going to bring about true reparations. It can only perpetuate victimhood.

  • James DeWolf Perry

    FOREIGNID: 16355
    Jasmine writes that “just being able to go back to a certain place in history 200+ years ago and say that her ancestor was there is something i envy. i dont know my story. i want that….”
    This, Jasmine, is one of the reasons why I participated in this film. Because of our shared history, there are too many Americans, such as you, who do not know their own stories. And I think that all too often, people seem have the sense that a family history which includes slavery is not respected, is somehow not a history that one can be proud of.
    I wanted viewers to see a white family, with the sort of heritage that is often called “respectable,” being explored in more detail. The point wasn’t to trash our family, but rather to show that under the surface, things aren’t always what they seem. There are dark events in every family history, as well as people and events to be proud of. Just as importantly, our histories are more intertwined than we may, at first, appreciate.
    It’s also important that we help all Americans to be able to trace back their family histories. There are many families in this country with detailed records from slavery or the slave trade, but the descendants of slave owners and slave traders usually keep these records out of public view.
    We’re hoping that by sharing our family’s records, we may be able to meet up with black families searching for ways to trace the routes of their ancestors. Perhaps we may also inspire other families to go public with their own family records, as well.

  • john finnegan

    FOREIGNID: 16356
    Some “white” people need guilt , some need to feel noble and most just try to be fair. It is the latter group that is disrespected. I have never seen such white guilt displayed over race as this documentary provided. They live as if slavery is still going on and the dramatic inroads blacks have made in the past 50 years have not occured. Then to feel noble they call on “white” people to admit their evil ways.
    Perhaps that was the most upsetting angle of their ignorance of race in America – they felt comfortable speaking for all white people and for all black people as well. As if we are all two big blobs of people and they have the insight to know what is best for all. We “whites” need to overcome our fear? Perhaps they should have said they need to overcome their own fear and be honest about it. How many blacks do they associate with , since they did admit the live in an elite comfy neighborhood? Reparations from one blob to another – that will fix a lot , just like the disastorous welfare programs that enslaved white and black blobs alike for decades. I would have more respect for this family if they sold off their possesions and moved into a black ghetto and worked to help. But no , they want me – a son of two uneducated Irish immigrants – to pay for their guilt by their association with their great, great ,great, grandfather. Then they can feel noble as well! And remain in their homes as more guilty/noble white people tell crack dealing murderers we are so sorry. Fixed!

  • James DeWolf Perry

    FOREIGNID: 16357
    John, while I find your comments thoughtful and a sincere effort to engage with the film, you might want to think carefully about your assumptions, especially since they seem essential to your conclusions.
    I can only speak for myself, as one person in the film. I don’t feel guilt (well, not about race). I don’t pretend to speak for all white or black people, and I don’t believe that all people of a given race see race in the same way. (In fact, a major theme in our discussions during filming was that not all of us saw race the same way at all, much less all whites or all blacks.) I don’t have the fear you describe. And I certainly don’t live in an “elite, comfy neighborhood.”
    Other family members can speak for themselves, and you did hear in the film that some feel guilt or fear around race. Perhaps the fact that they felt those emotions, and were honest about it, was legitimately distracting for you, but some white people do feel these emotions. I would hope that you could see past that fact to honestly evaluate the important issues raised by the documentary.
    Speaking of the important issues, I agree with you that Americans, white and black, are diverse, and reparations “from one blob to another” is not the answer.
    However, you write as if the benefits of slavery did not affect you, as a child of immigrants, and as if the lingering consequences of slavery did not work to your advantage today. I’d like to suggest that if you glance through these comments, you’ll see that as a factual matter, at least, this simply isn’t true. For more, you could start here and here.

  • Bryan

    FOREIGNID: 16358
    I believe this program, Traces of the Trade, was worthwhile because the ugly truth of our history must be understood for our society to move forward and recognize the importance of respecting and protecting human dignity and basic human rights. These descendents of slave traders went on this journey to seek the truth in an effort to understand history, and we can learn from their experience.
    One of the Africans they met correctly pointed out that slavery was not unique to the Americas. Civilizations all over the world have had slavery. Slavery still exists today. We all know it is wrong to treat people like property. Yet, there are always people cruelly exploiting and oppressing other people. The man in the documentary said slavery was evil, but he did not mention what drove their ancestors to such evil. Understanding why it happened is just as important as knowing what happened. The primary motivation for slavery was greed. Everyone needs to understand this basic truth. Racism and arrogance made the system worse, but greed always was and still is the primary cause of slavery.
    Racism is also not a uniquely American or white problem. Racism, nationalism and religious intolerance have been problems all over the world throughout history. These are problems of human societies, not just white societies. It does not make any sense to blame people for sins and crimes committed by their ancestors or people of their race. People of all races have committed atrocities and crimes against humanity.
    America has so much further to go to heal from its horribly racist past. We only recently made it illegal to discriminate against blacks based on race after a hundred years of cruel, brutal oppression that occurred after slavery was abolished. There are many lingering effects on our society from the centuries of crimes against humanity that took place here. We must all acknowledge the truths of history in order to address the inequities in our society. Many descendents of people who profited from slavery are still enjoying privileges inherited from their ancestors’ position in society. Would the people in this documentary have graduated from Ivy League Universities if they grew up poor and black in low-income housing projects? Maybe one in a million of them would have made it that far. Does the average descendent of slaves have opportunities equal to those of the average white descendent of poor post slavery immigrants? Probably not, but affirmative action makes that a more difficult question to answer. My opinion is that we should do a much better job of making sure everyone has an opportunity to receive an excellent education from prekindergarten through college.
    It is obvious to me that the American History that most of us were taught in school was inadequate. African American and Native American histories must be better integrated into all American History classes. The exploitation of slave labor was the basis of the American economy from colonial times until the Civil War. We have to learn our true history and deal with the root causes of oppression, discrimination and exploitation. Greed, arrogance, ignorance, intolerance and racism are the root problems we need to acknowledge and work against.

  • Mike Buksa

    FOREIGNID: 16359
    While the program was meticulously detailed, in the end, this felt like a DeWolfe therapy session. Katrina Browne states “Either listen to African American calls to deal with the history, which can make us feel guilty and bad about ourselves, or shut it all out so we don’t have to feel bad.” What about the Chinese who built our railroads, the Native Americans who were slaughtered and driven onto reservations, the Irish who toiled for years in lousy conditions? A good family friend of our has a photo from the 1900′s of a sign that says “No dogs or Irish allowed”, Japanese Americans interred because of their ancestry in the 40′s, Jews, Slav’s and others that Germany killed in the Holocaust, Arab Americans who face discrimination now.
    Of course this is a sad chapter to America’s history, but so are many others. My family is white and participated in Voter registration and SNCC riders in the South. They received death threats and beatings…do they receive compensation as well? Do the Africans that helped enslave their own people have to chip in? We didn’t come from privilege and worked hard to get where we are. Of course, the DeWolfe’s ask kidding if they can be sued for their past family indiscretion…If you truly feel that you need to wash your hands of your past, then you and other families who gained your wealth through the trade be held responsible.
    My family left Russia in the 1900′s because they faced their own discrimination and hardship. Maybe I should have them pay my college loans?

  • Adjua

    FOREIGNID: 16360
    Ah, sins of the father. Sorry James, you are not Jim (guess that happens when everyone is sharing the same name.) Whether one says “family connections” or “old money” it’s all just semantics—clearly your father’s high school wasn’t a free public school so the advantage is obvious. I mean no unkindness but your father is no intellectual so your response comes off as smug—that’s what is bothering people, a sense of entitlement, that you’re better than others. (I found myself picturing a Kara Walker silhouette illustrating this frustration when I read your reply.)
    When Tom says he doesn’t want to vilify anyone as he’s never walked in their shoes, that he can’t judge as it was another time, I would counter that compassionate, caring people (not interested in profit at a cost to human suffering) have always existed (think: Rumi, Shakespeare). It’s unfortunate that it takes a trip to the slave dungeons of Ghana to change Tom’s mind but I think this is one of the things that makes the film compelling.
    Mses Browne, DePoorter, and Hale seem to bear the weight of this spiritual journey. When Elizabeth talks about how she (we) buy goods that we know the workers who produced them weren’t paid fairly, that that’s normal, she makes a valid point. We all need to consider this. That remark reminded me of Obama’s lack of concern/plans for adults without healthcare—he doesn’t see it because he’s so smug he doesn’t choose to. His life is comfy as-is athough much of his daily comforts are provided by those who have no healthcare.

  • Cole Kirkpatrick

    FOREIGNID: 16361
    I know I’ve already commented on here but as I read I keep seeing the same ideas and they make no sense. Look at it this way. If somebody in my family kills or rapes an individual and dies in prison should I be expected to serve the rest of their sentence? I do not feel guilty about slavery and have absolutely no reason to. It sucks that the term second class citizen is even used today but if it looks like a duck and sounds like a duck then it must be a duck. Stereotypes wouldn’t exist if they weren’t true. If you want to give reparations collect money from all the wonderful compassionate white people you can and build some nice appartments in your neiborhood so they can go to decent schools and play with your white kids. The fact of the matter is black people do not want the same things as white people and vice versa. The two cultures are different and will always be headed in different directions. I know it’s a bummer but you’re fighting a losing battle.

  • Desiree Taylor

    FOREIGNID: 16362
    I am so glad Traces of the Trade exists, that this blog exists, and that James DeWolf is expressing such well reasoned and thought provoking comments to comments on it. This is the work “We the People” have to do. We are the “We” of America now. So whether or not we feel personally responsible is irrelevant. Yes, “We” struggle in this country today, some more than others. Some struggle is natural and some of it is based on injustice. But the hope for each of us is to honestly take on our own minds and hearts and use that personal work to do our work in the world, honest work around real issues that the country needs if it is going to be better.
    “We” for example have to take on issues that even the great mind of Thomas Jefferson couldn’t work out. He wrote about slavery in 1820, “[W]e have the wolf by the ears, and we can neither hold him, nor safely let him go”. And that inability to deal, as well as many other things both good and bad is our legacy. If America doesn’t get our best efforts today to reach our country’s ideals, ideals that haven’t been reached completely yet, this country will sink under the weight of what could have been if only… So we have work to do whether we like it or not, its not easy, and we have to deal with the injustices of the past and present, as well as celebrate the good stuff. A start is to get thinking and talking.

  • Gale Vance

    FOREIGNID: 16363
    Just a short entry of appreciation. This was an eye opener for me. I had no idea how complicit and active the north was in the slave trade. No longer can northerners sit back and reproach their southern neighbors….something I did as a New Yorker.
    I am interested to read all the comments and see if I get clearer about what it will take to forgive and make peace between the oppressed and the oppressor. This includes the Jews and the Germans and so many more.

  • Danielle Brooks

    FOREIGNID: 16364
    I applaud the sincerity of the filmmakers and her family. I am looking forward to watching the documentary this evening after reading about it. I feel compelled to shout in the wind here but the problems that some, certainly not all, slave descendants feel/have felt are not just the result of slavery. White privilege may stem from slavery but it thrived for 100+ years afterward. What was the date that ended? The conversation only begins with slavery. To Mary Mura, do you realize how loathsome it is to compare the heinous crimes commited against one minority group over another? Take some time to ask yourself how/why African American history in the US is not as sympathetic to you. I bet your answer has very little to do with historical fact.

  • Layton Fireng

    FOREIGNID: 16365
    I saw the program about the slave trade. Slavery has been with us since the beginning of human history until the present. In fact, even today one could take a ship to the same ports as the family portrayed in the film, and purchase from the same dealers a boat load of slaves. My family has been here since 1620, I am not proud of all of the things that my puritan ancestors did. In fact I feel they, in some areas, did great harm. One of my great , great uncles, had a slave, he lived in Mass. In 1715 he made provision for the slave to be set free What really puzzles me is that, if they were so disturbed about slavery, why did they not do something to affect the current slave traffic, rather than dredging into the past? It should be noted that while the conditions under which the slaves were kept, were deplorable, the conditions under which the masters, indeed even the most wealthy and privileged , including monarchs and emperors lived, were worse than anything we know today. Disease, pestilence, insects, vermin, heat and cold, visited all classes alike. There is no way that we can know how all people lived in those times. To walk from an air-conditioned hotel room into a dungeon, is not an accurate way to access a way of life. A recent PBS program spoke of a monarch of the last century, that took great pleasure in his monthly bath, which he took for pleasure, not necessity. The past is in the past, we can only affect that which is in the present, .
    What I saw was truly disturbing and upsetting. From a pool of several hundred on their list, they could only entice a handful of people to partake in this Odyssey. I saw a group of affluent, educated and privileged people. They spoke of several generations of Ivy League education. They appeared to be equipped by background and education to do something useful in the world, They waxed eloquently about high ideals and lofty goals..What a disappointment. They spoke of the honor and prestige of the DeWolf family. Unfortunately, they turned out to be about the worst group to represent that family. What I saw were a bunch of mealy mouthed, spineless, apologists. Whatever their ancestors may have done, could not come close to their depreciating behavior in bringing down the family name. I suppose they thought in debasing themselves they could in some way atone for, what they felt , were the sins of their ancestors. Who elected them spokesmen for the family? Those pompous self righteous clowns did more harm to their family, than their ancestors could possibly have done. They are a disgrace to the family. They got to where they are, because of the efforts of their ancestors. They accepted the benefits, and now attack them. What the DeWolfs did , was what they did. They were, in their time held, in high esteem. How would they feel about their descendants? We all have misgivings about what our ancestors did. But from their efforts, the foundation of this great nation was laid. We do not honor them by low self worth and groveling. Their spinelessness was appalling. They should take one more sojourn. They should do the world, and the family a favor. They should go to some God forsaken place and do what the Japanese call the “the honorable thing”.
    Why does this upset me? My great, great etc grandmother was Eunice DeWolf, She married Nathaniel Mather, who served in the Revolution. By blood, I too am a DeWolf, as much as they are. I deeply resent their arrogance in appointing themselves as DeWolf spokespersons, and taking the family name to a new low. To be explicit, not because of the slavery, but because of the way they deported themselves. A constructive approach would have been, to say we are a bit upset about what went on in the past, and leave it at that. Then say, we would like to see what constructively we can do about the current trade and commerce in slaves. No groveling, apologizing or making amends, look forward, and make a contribution. Under no circumstances should they even speak of any kind of reparations, or accept any comments from anyone about what their ancestors may have done. Their ancestors came from strength and built a great empire. They should draw from that same pool of strength and take their cause forward. That being, what can be done about slavery today. But they won’t, they lack the courage and strength of their ancestors. At a time when our country needs strong people, they present us with weaklings apologists and cowards. What a sorry lot they are.

  • james Howard

    FOREIGNID: 16366
    I know how to solve the problem. All the DeWolf’s descendants and other white guilt, ,white shame losers need to give away all their possessions and fly to Africa and offer their freedom to the blacks of Africa and work for them for the rest of their lives. I think this is fair. White Slaves picking flies off the noses of all the prosperous starving black kids.

  • James DeWolf Perry

    FOREIGNID: 16367
    Adjua, once again, thanks for sticking with this conversation. I can appreciate that you felt my father’s response in the film suggested a sense of entitlement on his part. For what it’s worth, it feels that way to him, too, and he agrees with you and me that his family background made it much more likely that he would be able to attend Harvard (even if the privileges he had were more subtle than family connections or old money).
    I’m interested, too, in your comment, regarding Tom refusing to judge those in the past, that “compassionate, caring people (not interested in profit at a cost to human suffering) have always existed.”
    This may be true, but my research has suggested that almost everyone in New England society at that time supported or at least condoned, and profited from, the slave trade. To be sure, there were a handful of abolitionists, but we shouldn’t kid ourselves that there were many. Almost everyone was able to make their peace with the trade, rather than avoid complicity and the benefits that came with it. To me, this says something profound about the nature of our humanity, and I would suggest that it’s much harder to accept than the myth of a few “bad apples” who perpetrated the slave trade.

  • James DeWolf Perry

    FOREIGNID: 16368
    Layton, I appreciated reading your words, which were obviously deeply personal, and I can’t imagine how it might feel to be you, seeing this film about your ancestors and disagreeing so strongly with the attitudes of your relatives on camera. I, myself, disagree strongly with many of the assumptions and attitudes which come through in the film, including ones that you take issue with, and I don’t find that particularly easy, either.
    I couldn’t disagree more, though, with your belief that because these ancestors helped to lay “the foundation of this great nation,” we should refuse to vilify those actions which we now consider to be morally reprehensible. In fact, if I didn’t know that you condemn slavery unreservedly, I would be quite disturbed by your remark that we should not “accept,” whatever that means, any comments from anyone else about what our ancestors have done, and your belief that those ancestors “built a great empire” that we should emulate.
    I, for one, do not condemn my fifth-great grandfather, James D’Wolf. He did accomplish great things, and the historical record suggests that morally, he was probably no better, and no worse, than most of his contemporaries. I do, however, condemn his involvement in the slave trade for the monstrosity that it was, and I want to do my small part to address those remaining injustices which I, and you, have inherited as members of this society.
    Layton, since you attach so much weight specifically to the “groveling, apologizing or making amends” that you see in the film, perhaps you could say a bit more about what struck you that way? I don’t recall groveling, apologizing, or making amends for what my ancestors have done, and I’m wondering whether you’re perhaps reading more into the film than is really there?

  • James Shortway

    FOREIGNID: 16369
    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.

  • james Howard

    FOREIGNID: 16370
    Bravo James Shortway. Well written and from the heart..

  • Amy Billingsley

    FOREIGNID: 16371
    Thanks so much for this wonderful documentary. Until America faces up to its past, we will never heal. This process is so necessary for America to recover from its debilitating cancer that keeps us from reaching our potential. I hope next time it can be aired in DC at a time other than the middle of the night (11:30 pm and 2:00 am).

  • Pete Wilson

    FOREIGNID: 16372
    Thank you Katrina for your wonderful work! And thank you all of the DeWolf family.

  • Hayden

    FOREIGNID: 16373
    As a white American, I personally find this documentary infected with the elitism and insensitivity that they were trying to debunk. By standing in an ivory tower, looking down upon their past, they only served to further alienate the image of white America. A bunch of intellectuals touring ruins and talking about their feelings to their fellow white intellectuals serves only to make themselves feel like they are doing something to solve the problem. These people try to compensate for the past with which they are unrelated, but their observations are rampant with the intellectual and cultural elitism that is so pervasive throughout this documentary.
    I found it hard to watch the scene where they were touring the plantation where many of them left because of the mosquitos and heat. The pretentiousness of walking around a sugar mill turnstile once, and taking pictures of ruins, then going back to talk with other white people about the issues that race raises in America was difficult to stomach.
    Hearing a bunch of educated, well off, white people get emotional over the problems of race, while refusing to get hands on and fully delve into the roots of the issue was enraging to me. I’m glad that they were so satisfied with their work, if it makes them sleep better at night, knowing that they somehow made society better by talking about their feelings and thoughts. But I would have never expected them to jump off the Ivory Tower into the real state of 21st century American society… they might hear something that can’t be learned in a classroom… and that would shake them to the core.

  • frank espinosa

    FOREIGNID: 16374
    One of the statements that a black woman raised in one of the round table discussions is very valid. White people have no idea what it means to live as a minority in the USA.
    Ninety percent of the films that Hollywood produces are almost all white. White heroes, white love stories, the typical Hollywood film, place two white people in love in different land and you get an epic. We are supposed to care about these two white people through out the film while the natives die by the ton. Sure there are black stars count the number. Take a look at the magazines, the Televisions shows, where African Americans and others are regulated to be the second players, or the comedians. Is there an all black drama show? Take a look at the film “Dan in real life, not a single black person shows up. Not one couple is even dating a black person or a Hispanic person. Here is a simple lesson every time a commercial comes up on your television, count the number of black people you see in a half hour period, it will shock you.
    I congratulate the filmmaker and the entire cast for showing such courage, and for taking the time to actually explore why we are not speaking. All this talk about conversation. Most whites would never want to talk about race, I hope that changes.
    There was a moment in the film where the family goes to visit the festival taking place and they feel out of place. Well maybe because for the first time in their lives they are in an area where they are not the majority. It is a strange feeling, take it from me. I have been in clubs in Hollywood, Ca. where I was the only black person in a crowd. Where I was the only black person in meetings. If white people really want to make difference than they better start by helping to produce, and making it possible for other voices to be heard instead of themselves.

  • Cindy Barnard

    FOREIGNID: 16375
    First, thank you, for one of the most insightful, personal documentaries
    about slavery in America I have seen. My sense here is that what began as a story of
    one family’s past will become a major monument to reparations. Each of
    us must find within our own experience and environment a way to
    communicate among culturally diverse people, as free from fear as is
    possible; and this film has inspired me to begin my own journey.
    _Cindy Barnard

  • Gilbert Martin

    FOREIGNID: 16376
    As someone who, for work, has spent a fair amount of time in Louisiana and was interested in visiting the many River Road Plantations along the Mississippi, I wondered why the slave owning past which made the mansions possible was rarely addressed openly in more then a perfunctory manner; perhaps not entirely unlike visiting the Commander’s splendid house at Auschwitz and opting to ignore the raison d’etre of the Camp beyond the garden fence. Yet this powerful documentary reminds me that, as a New Englander of European descent, the spirit of historical and personal reckoning which I have found largely lacking in Louisiana may also be found much closer to home – maybe even in the mirror.
    Thank you for taking us on this journey, which is an ongoing one for years to come.

  • Alicia Edmonds MItchell Torres

    FOREIGNID: 16377
    I recently watched “Traces of the Trade” and was very impressed and moved by the film. It is great to see that the truth about slavery and its repercussions are finally being acknowledged by european desendents of slavery. In order to move forward we must heal the wounds of our nations past, but to do so requires that the REAL American history be told. I am a bi-racial woman with both african american and native american blood streaming through my vains. As I watched this film I could not mute the underlying question that repeated over and over again in my head: “What about the genocide, slavery, and struggle of the Native Americans?” Rhode Island’s own history is synonymous with the Wampanoags and the Narragansetts Tribes. Yet, we seem to forget that after colonization and christianization many of the tribe members were either thrown into slavery, killed, or forced into Christanity for both the monetary profits and land. I commend Ms. Browne for opening the door and the dialogue for the truth to be told and I hope that we ALL as Americans can come together and take the blindfolds off to reveal the the reality of our past so we can all heal and truly be called The UNITED STATES of AMERICA.

  • Al Jaslow

    FOREIGNID: 16378
    While interesting to see yet another testimony to the “wrongs” of our colonial heritage – lest us forget… shared by many european nations. This “documentary” reminded me of a 70′s high school history class project. Haven’t ALL civilizations subjugated peoples they have overpowered in one way or another? Unfortunately, in the end this testimonial work is only that. She can never really bring right the african, jewish, oriental, or native american American experience. No matter how much she sheds a crocodile tear. I am sorry I actually sat through the whole thing hoping it would end with something different. Not.

  • Kimberly

    FOREIGNID: 16379
    Katrina Browne and Tom De Wolf want their family and their government (the American taxpayer) as well as corporations that profited from slave labor, to apologize to African Americans, and pay reparations to the descendants of slaves. Huh?….. If the De Wolf family insists on our paying reparations, then reparations should be given to the descendants of soldiers who gave their lives during the Civil War to free the slaves. And let’s not forget the white folks who helped slaves escape. And let’s make Ghana pay reparations to African Americans for kidnapping, shackling, and auctioning off their own people to slave traders. And why stop here? Let’s pay reparations to the American Indians, the Chinese, and any other victim conscious person who wants a hand out. So how far back in history do you want to go? Don’t you think the Jewish Americans have a good case against the Germans for enslaving them in concentration camps? Heck they could even sue the Romans and Egyptians for enslaving the Israelites. And let’s not forget the mean old Catholic Church, because the descendants of the witches of Salem deserve some reparations for the moms that were burned at the stake. So, did I leave anybody out? Like the hoot owl? We have to be fair now, because everybody deserves a piece of the American pie. Oh, sorry, I wasn’t being politically correct. These reparations are for African Americans only. Oh really? Ain’t that discrimination? You know, you might want to stop by your local therapy office real soon because slavery was outlawed hundreds of years ago. We even fought a big war over it…maybe you didn’t get the memo. And um, I thought education was about gaining understanding, compassion, and forgiveness…. So what happened? Your way leads to anger, dependency, blame, and victim consciousness. My way helps me to stay in the now and focus on my own issues. I am working toward self-responsibility, self-forgiveness, and self-love. Let me work on my stuff, and you work on your stuff. I’ll pay for my mistakes, and you pay for yours.
    One enslaved taxpayer needing reparation

  • Gary Jones

    FOREIGNID: 16380
    I watched this docudrama and didnt learn anything new. Everyone knows that there were slaves in America who picked cotton and tobacco. Everyone knows that slaves were picked up and sold into bondage at auctions in the public square. Everyone knows that slaves were just a commodity product. When I was a kid in school we read about the slave trade, we saw the diagrams of the slave hulls, we read about the auctions. We know it was all about money so what is new.
    Why has so many people just become enlightened about the slave trade and who made money and what the conditions of the slaves were kept.
    Most people have seen the series “Roots” and it was a dramatic depiction of slavery in the US. So what is new?
    I refuse to pay reparations for something I had no part in. I will just stop paying taxes if I am forced to pay for the sins of the past.
    I have an idea on Reparations: Before money is paid every black that has ever collected welfare or any public assistance needs to make restitution to the taxpayers of this country. We can call it break even.
    Edited by moderator for language

  • James DeWolf Perry

    FOREIGNID: 16381
    I’m going to take a stab at responding to James (Shortway).
    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.

  • Gary Jones

    FOREIGNID: 16382
    Someone, Anyone tell us specifically what reparations are wanted or deserved?
    Do Haitian blacks get the reparations even though they never made it to US slave owners, How about the Cuban black slaves, the blacks anywhere in the America’s? Does any black get it? How about the blacks that immigrated to the US? Does a drop of black blood entitle a person to reparations?
    Many children are born out of wedlock. The fathers are not paying a dime in child support. How about people clean up their lifestyle and I would take them more seriously?
    Where is the shame in superstars who make millions of dollars and dont pay for their offspring, but will be on MTV Cribs showing off their 10 cars and million dollar TV room. What happened to the concept of a mother and father?
    G Jones
    Edited by moderator for language and content

  • John Craig

    FOREIGNID: 16383
    I was watching CSPAN book club several months ago and a writer was talking to a black author and they were discussing why so many Vietnamese immigrants have prospered in Southern Texas and why blacks are still living in poverty? The black author said the Vietnamese work hard to make a better life for themselves.
    I did watch the documentary and I feel that blacks dont respect themselves enough. What happened to the struggle of former slaves up to the civil rights black leaders preaching education, education education.? Today, everything is about lawsuits.
    Edited by moderator for language and content

  • Carrie from Tennessee

    FOREIGNID: 16384
    Thank you Katrina Browne and your family for being brave enough to tackle these questions. I am a graduate student researching property law and the illegal taking of black liberty and real property at the turn of the century, i.e. forty years after the civil war. In Tennessee alone, there were roughly ten communities distributed all over the state that drove all of their black residents out of town at gunpoint between 1900 and 1920 thereafter taking the once black- owned property and being able to mortgage it, improve upon it, rent it to create wealth that legally belonged to black families who were told they would be killed if they tried to come back and claim it. There are people in their 80s alive today that remember their grandparents stories of being born into slavery, the hope of emancipation and the struggles of trying to eek out a living with black skin and no start up capital only to have their livelihoods destroyed by white mobs with no hope of legal recourse.
    All of this to say that even if one moves past the horrors of the slave trade, there are horrors with fresher memories perpetuated by whites who never participated in slavery per se that have never been accounted for and that have shaped the state of black wealth creation in a very real and tangible way. Addressing these issues takes bravery and humility that very few individuals possess. Thank you for making your documentary and for opening eyes and ears and hearts to the root causes of persistent black poverty in America today and for beginning a dialogue as to how to progress together from here.

  • Kate

    FOREIGNID: 16385
    I am not sure whether the fact that so many of the De Wolfes in the film went to Ivy League schools is a function of ‘privilege’. They didn’t give enough information. Did their families all pay their way? Did any of them attend on scholarship/loans?
    I, a WASP woman from Massachusetts, with ancestors equally divided between those who came in the 17th century and those who came in the 19th, went to a ‘Seven Sisters’ school (female equivalent of the Ivy League at the time), class of 1961. None of my grandparents had gone to college, nor had my mother. My father had gone for two years only to a college where people work for one semester, then study, for one, than work again, etc. My father had died when I was 5, and my mother earned $45 a week at the time I went to college. I was stunned at college to see how much money many other students had – some had allowances twice as big as my mother’s salary. A fair number of students were debutantes, but more than half the students had come from public schools, so it wasn’t a private club. It’s just that my family’s income was way below the norm for the place.
    How did someone from a family like mine get to go? Like one of the De Wolfe family, I worked my tail off, studying four hours a night through high school. I came to the attention of some alumnae from the college, who encouraged me to apply. I used a combination of scholarships and loans to go. I would still say that I benefited from ‘privilege’ in that I had HEARD of the Seven Sisters;I had a cousin who was planning to go to another one of them (her part of the family was relatively affluent); no one in my family was pressuring me to get a job right after high school (though they did think I was being selfish in insisting on going to that particular college, and I now agree with them); and I lived in a town with good public schools and an alumnae club for that college
    But I knew a black kid from my high school from a poorer family (on welfare, in fact) who was encouraged to go to an Ivy League school and did. I think one of his scholarships (like one of mine) came from the church which his family and mine attended. He graduated a year before me.
    Getting into Harvard or Wellesley or another such school is not necessarily a matter of money or ‘white privilege’ or being a ‘legacy’ (having other graduates of that college in your family), though all of those may help. It depends on hard work, encouragement, going to a decent school, and luck.

  • Anne

    FOREIGNID: 16386
    As an black woman of Afro-Caribbean descent, I watched this documentary with interest. I was not quite sure what to expect. It has been my experience that white people both here and in Europe are quite ignorant of the impact that the Triangular slave trade and slavery as it existed in the then known New World has had on them as a people and their ability to appreciate the consequences that continue to ripple through time. I have also found that here in the United States most black people, though mindful to some extent of the impact of slavery and the slave trade, are also just as ignorant. I was therefore happy to see these DeWolf descendants confront a very personal, painful and shameful part of their family history and then go on to do what they felt was needful to do that was in their power to do. To me it demonstrates what I have always believed. An honest confrontation of history helps to heal, helps to effect change, because truth makes us free. The truth empowers. The De Wolf history is in effect a history of whites, blacks, and native peoples of the Americas. It is a history we all need to confront. Some have done it better than others. I hope that these De Wolf family members would continue to speak out about the truths they have come to learn. I further hope that they would also try to effect a change in the way the history of the New World is taught in American schools because from the little exposure I have had to it, it is a fairy tale history of white America with minor concessions to other groups. For now, I would like to commend the De Wolfs for not going back to business as usual and I hope that God would bless their efforts to make a difference.

  • James DeWolf Perry

    FOREIGNID: 16387
    Great questions, Kate. I can tell you, first, that it was only the fathers of 8 of the 10 in the film who went to Ivy League schools. Of those in the film who went to such schools, I can assure you that not all of us had families that could pay for educations like that.
    However, there are different kinds of privilege. Children with parents who are college-educated do have advantages when it comes to doing well in school, and in preparing to apply to colleges. They’re likely to learn different things at home, to learn different attitudes about school and studying, to have different expectations about what is realistic, and worthwhile, to achieve.
    You express this quite well, Kate, when you discuss the aspects of your background that made it harder, or less likely, that you would go somewhere like a Seven Sisters school, as well as the ways in which you didn’t have it as hard as some others (not just that you weren’t black, or from a poorer family than you were, but also that you had the example of a cousin, and your family was relatively supportive of what you were doing).
    Anne, thanks so much for your supportive words. I think the one thing that unites all of the DeWolf family members in the film, despite our many differences, is our commitment to continuing to tell this aspect of the nation’s history. We are making plans to use the film in schools, and are hoping, too, to inspire a more balanced teaching of all of the nation’s history.

  • R.George

    FOREIGNID: 16388
    My reparation,
    I’m not interested in millions or hundreds of dollars…. I would like my reparation in the form of TRUTH…. My entire childhood educational experience was inculcated, with humiliating LIES ,about African enslavement, ( whites were Masters) I had to ingest and regurgitate these LIES, in order to succeed in the educational system.
    Even though the textbooks ran contrary to what I was taught by my Grandmother and other family. Had it not been for that freedom of truth, (which was only a small piece), my sense of self-worth would have been even more damaged than it was.
    Give back to MY GRANDCHILDREN ….what AMERICA stole from me….MY IDENTITY …I want my Grandchildren to know about the Kings and Queens of Africa…( Yes I know they were not perfect & some collaborated with the churches of Rome and England)…. I don’t care about the Duchess of York…..or Zeus….I want my Grandchildren to know the names of the NATIVE AMERICAN NATIONS …taught by the school systems …then let them learn about other lands…and other nations.
    THE TRUTH……THE UGLY,GREED-DRIVEN, HIDDEN TRUTH …Change your textbooks….STOP teaching children
    LIES about your true American history ……LIES about enslaved Africans…LIES about
    what truly happened to many Native Americans….never to see the shores of THEIR homeland again or forced to live on unproductive and unfertile pieces of land..tricked into signing documents, Or to die because they refused.
    I want my reparation in the form of TRUTH…BEGINNING in the elementary classrooms of America.
    thank-you for your documentary

  • S Leffingwell

    FOREIGNID: 16389
    I watched this morning @ 4am with tears and deep thoughts for Ms. Brown’s soulful journey and marveled at her bravery and the same of her relatives that joined her on this quest. The slavery that Africans endured is certainly an American tragedy. I could not help but wonder if it would be possible to do a similar story about “Native Americans” (Indians) who I personally feel are the ethnic group that have suffered the most at the hands of “White People” We are often the “forgotten” or overlooked minority but we were here before anyone and as much as civilzation (White People) 1st tried to annihilate and then assimilate us we are still here, still strong and staying true to our heritage and in some cases what is left of our culture …. what a story (film) that would make!!

  • Eleanor L. Best

    FOREIGNID: 16390
    Re: PBS’ POV Traces of the trade: a story from the deep North / Katrina Browne
    To the DeWolfs from an African American:
    My congratulations to the 10 of you. That took courage and clarity. It’s a remarkable thing that you are seeking to take it to another level of action. But that is your journey to follow as far as it is a good thing to you. I hope you are not seeking black gratitude, such a thing would be out of place. To the rest of the DeWolf descendants, rest easy, one can only be what one is and that’s OK! Really!
    My thanks for the phrase ‘enslaved Africans!’ Africa never gave birth to slaves but to people, some of whom were enslaved! We are wounded by this perpetually, even from some of our own mouths.
    Now begins my task to discipline myself to a very few words because your documentary generated a treatise.
    Here’s some insight. We Africans in America never share much with you, not for 400 years. One reason is that we mustn’t, it simply isn’t safe. Our very survival has depended on keeping our stuff to ourselves: Paul Laurence Dunbar revealed “We wear the mask!” The other reason is, we do a lot in the way of preserving your feelings, protecting your comfort zone – we’re a zenophilic people; it’s our way. You aren’t supposed to know that, by the way!
    Jeremiah Wright came as a shock to white folks. To deal with it, they defined it from their core and got it very, very wrong. But, that’s ok, that’s the fabric of our lives. Here’s a shrug to that. We get to shrug a lot, everyday, all day. He let cats out of bags and look at the consequences. The only black folks that aren’t secretly giving him ‘right ons’ are Clarence Thomas, Condoleeza Rice, Colin Powell and others of their ilk. Perhaps the reason why we never went Northern Ireland or Basque, etc. on you throughout these 4 centuries, is because we preach & pray & sing & laugh & cry instead! Leave us alone with our venting style and everybody will be alright.
    White folks really do demand too much of us. Somebody like a Michael Moore blows us away. Generally, white folks don’t get it; you don’t extrapolate. You see the daily slaughter as stand alone mistakes and you tch tch and move on. Each Eleanor Bumpers, or Albert Luima or Amadou Diallo (just to use the teeny example pulled from the evil of Saint Sir Giuliani’s coddled cops) gets added to a litany which we recite in the background of our consciousness. The dominant society will continue to add beads to that chain, every moment of every day forever. It is what it is.
    Now that woman who resented your presence and said she hoped not to have to see white people in Africa generated some resentment & hurt in one of you, but she was well within her rights. Whites go to Africa to catch the exotic & erotic (you being an exception) & give hand-outs! We very few African Americans who even understand that we should visit home, that have the desire & means, are doing pilgrimage.
    It is sacred and secret. It is for us alone. There is a need to see what was ripped from us. We owe it to our ancestors. We like to cry ‘Wrong, some of us are returning!’ And if you think you experienced some emotion – forget about it. You can never understand what happens inside us when we go through those ‘Doors of No Return’. You can never know this because you can never be us. It’s ours alone, white folks just don’t get to share this. It’s in the spirit of Miriam Makeba’s words “If given a choice, I would have certainly selected to be what I am: one of the oppressed instead of one of the oppressors!”
    You shouldn’t witness our rage, our tears, our anguish, our catharsis – ever! On these pilgrimages (I’ve made 8 myself) we barely even speak among ourselves – it’s just too strong, it doesn’t even bear a whisper – it takes away the breath and stops the heart. Nobody should have witnessed me spitting on the governor’s grave that sits so prominently in his castle, not even the other blacks with whom I traveled.
    The 2 major groups with which I’ve traveled prohibit whites joining us. On one occasion, 2 black men brought along their white mates and the trip organizer promised a full refund and sent them home. It just won’t do. We have to have the space to be us and we don’t show you us. When you’re with us, you are company and we must be on our best behavior. That takes energy that we shouldn’t have to expend when we do pilgrimage.
    There were several occasions when we showed hostility to whites who ‘didn’t act right!’ In the US or England or Spain or even the Islands from which some of us come – no problem, we are going to be your most courteous, solicitous friend; you will seldom be shown our reaction when you offend – but not in our Motherland! On a trip (not a pilgrimage) to Africa organized by a black radio station, one white woman joined us. She was never told how upset we were at her presence. Never cursed when she happily chortled that her ancestors were from Africa too. Are you kidding me?
    Yes, yes, whites have that correct now, human life started in Africa BUT, when you find somebody black who is happy to embrace you as a blood – do not trust that person, they are trippin’. We wear the mask, we coexist beautifully but never as much as that! I quit a gospel choir when some lovely white folks wanted to join. I can’t share my wounds with you. I won’t! You have no idea what chagrin was generated by John Howard Griffin’s ‘Black Like Me!’ That black did not reach the level of his soul and he was able to wash it off! Puleeze! He never really had a clue. But, of course it was a meaningful act for him and is not to be discounted.
    Listen to Ayi Kwei Armah’s words “Woe to the race, too generous in the giving of itself, that finds a road not of regeneration but a highway to its own extinction” and “For whom do we aspire to reflect our people’s death? For whose entertainment shall we sing our agony?”
    Right away, you think aha, insincerity! Nope! But you can’t have an explanation either. We can’t inject our interstices into you. You just have to get along without that sort of gratification. It is what it is and what it will remain. Just recall ‘Amazing Grace’ – the terrible deeds of that preacher does not stop black folk from loving that hymn and singing it with gusto. Do not try to figure us out!
    There never will be that much assimilation or integration. Here’s my thing, you should feel free to quash any guilt you might dredge up. History is what it is. I’m glad that James the 5th kept the tradition and named his son James the 6th. That is too important a legacy to mess up now. History (good bad or indifferent) IS and when acknowledged with accuracy & truth, it’s precious. You don’t run & hide from it. Only embracing it will heal. You can’t repent for all that went before, your responsibility is for your years here. The admission was golden and for me suffices.
    White lies are what incur our pulpit cries for your damnation. You can never know how we are bombarded with the lies about history – every day of our lives. You can never know the half of our experience. We know how to do peaceful coexistence; Peace & Reconciliation could only come from African people. It’s our special gift. It’s why we aren’t collectively insane beyond remedy. As Boston’s dear Elma Lewis said “If you’re black and you’re not angry, you belong in a mental institution.”
    Sorry, this is as short as I could make it!
    Eleanor L. Best

  • D Smith

    FOREIGNID: 16391
    I was disappointed in “Pieces of the Trade”. I am descended from Mark Anthony Dewolf’s brother was sent back to Connecticut, and teh triangular trade involvement was actually started by their father, who may have married into it. I was expecting more detail about my ancestors, about the triangular trade and the involvement of the northern econmy in the slave trade, adn about the lives of the slaves. The program touched on those things and explained some of them clearly if briefly, but the main focus was some sort of liberal academic head trip, apologies and reparations.
    Katrina Browne has explained that her social work career, her studies for the ministry, and her journey to learn more about her DeWolf ancestors were all prompted by a profound sense of alienation from her society, and of something wrong that she couldn’t put her finger on. My own quest to learn my family history was driven by a need to understand some things that went profoundly wrong in my own family, and these problems are similar in both roots adn character.
    Understand me clearly. I do NOT take issue with publicly discussing uncomfortable family issues. See my own web sites. and
    Partly as a result of my research into the DeWolfe’s, and actually of talking to some people who were on the periphery of this project, I have realized that the source of Browne’s and my alienation and my family’s problems is profound strains and tensions within our society, that are a continuation and further development on the strains and tensions that existed in our society in the 18th and 19th centuries. For instance, there are tensions between an evil economic system and an earlier traditional system of morality, and there are tensions surrounding how a society is to deal with its more troubled aspects.
    Browne’s focus on making up in this time for a particular problem that was confined to another time completely misses the boat.
    She and her intrepid little group of pilgrims further come across as stuck on another planet, far, far away, a long time ago. In a year when we may elect a Black President of the United STates, whose program is to deemphasize differences and emphasize commonality, and coming from a summer and spring spent working hard on his campaign, I want to know what sort of space aliens these people are with their emphasis on how different people are, how scared people are of each other, how angry the races are at each other. These people are entirely stuck in another time. Discussing anger, forgiveness, apologies and reparations is not appropriate to this country in the first decade of the 21st century. Focusing on apologies and reparations can only perpetuate bad feelings between racial groups, adn goes against everything Barack Obama stands for, and what he lectured us about in his response to Rev. Wright’s sermon that Katrina Browne and company obviously missed because, having spent too time on their other planet, they do not know the man is running for President of this country and do not know that he looks likely to win. If Katrina Browne really did have an intuition that our society is on the brink of a major sea change on race, she should have had more faith in it. And I am curious – how could she not even mention that Barack Obama is running for President, even in her postscript? Maybe she’s done something I’ve been known to do – one time I talked about the one token black manager in the bank branch where I worked, where ALL the managers were Black? In other words, Katrina Browne sees Black people exactly where adn how she expects to see them, and reality itself cannot make a dent.
    I also have to wonder what planet she’s been on that she has not been around more Black people. I could not believe the degree to which they treated their Black assistant producer like a Martian, and the way Blacks on that program were consistently presented as lone trailblazers every where they go. What planet have any of these people been on – the Black or the White people in this film? I too grew up completely isolated from Black people – 50 years ago in an Adirondack village, but Black people are as many as half the people I work with, not to mention as often my supervisors and managers as not, and some housemates have been Black, and I soon got over it, 30 years ago already. My housemates are a couple; a White man and a Black woman.
    Like Browne and her entire band of pilgrims, I am Episcopalian, and I particularly take offense at her emphasis on her lobbying for an apology for slavery by the Episcopal Church. I am aware that this film was actually done with an emphasis toward certain processes within the Episcopal Chruch. I am aware of this, and am deeply angered and offended by it. The Episcopal Church is treating homosexuals exactly the same way it once treated Black slaves, and it has not learned a single thing. What is more, the people who most want to treat homosexuals exactly the way our Church once treated Blacks, are pretty much who wants to apologize for the way it once treated Blacks. The whole thing is very sick.
    There were signs on the program that Browne and company have a singularly medieval herd mentality. They repeatedly think as a group, and think about others only as members of groups. For instance, their assistant producer, the Black woman, was not a person, she was Black. This is typical of people who supported Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primaries; many pathetically obsessed on, for instance, if they should vote for the Black person or the woman, instead of evaluating the two candidates as individuals with strengths and weaknesses to bring to the office of President. Feminists often expressed the view that we should vote for the woman, even if the woman in question is Lady Macbeth. I see the same sort of group mentality in the way the Episcopal Church’s hierarchy is dealing with homosexuality. It’s about the views of an international collectivity. Totally missing is the application of conscience the matter, as in how do we treat gay members of our own congregations.
    I do have to note that this film was transparently the particular journey of a group of elite intelligentsia descended from a single upper class family of Rhode Island. Mark Anthony’s brother led a much more commonplace existence. His descendants were not elite, and were often working class. While until this minute I did not realize it, because they’ve done outrageous things and thought in outrageous ways, Simon’s descendants probably been consistently more down to earth than the Rhode Island branch of the family. Maybe that’s why I have both feet on this planet and the bunch who did this film do not. I have to say that the world view of the Rhode Island Dewolf’s is not that of most people, who have pretty much moved on when it comes to racism, and are pretty much straightforwardly prepared to do battle with the vocal minority who have not.

  • James DeWolf Perry

    FOREIGNID: 16392
    S Leffingwell, thanks so much for sharing your reactions to the film.
    You might be interested to know that while Katrina couldn’t discuss Native Americans in the film, Tom DeWolf is able to discuss some of that history in his book, Inheriting the Trade. Those of us in the film have also spent considerable time discussing the parallel historical treatment of blacks, Native Americans, and other racial and ethnic groups in U.S. history.

  • Kimberly

    FOREIGNID: 16393
    WARNING!!!! If you read this blog, you may become a bleeding heart liberal like the De Wolfs who are digging up the past, playing the blame game, and demanding that America:
    1) Apologize to African Americans
    2) Pay restitution to the descendants of slaves
    The De Wolfs have no right to suggest that I apologize and pay reparations for slavery. It crosses all boundaries, and is an abuse of power. It is also disrespectful and inappropriate.
    This latest documentary is the incarnation of the fairness doctrine and intended to rob people of their income, so that the liberals can redistribute the wealth of this country. Unfortunately that is what the Democratic mantra of change is all about. The Socialist agenda is about increasing taxes and redistributing the wealth to appease their unresolved feelings of powerlessness and distrust. Socialist liberals will also make sure that our language, culture, and borders become irrelevant. How perfectly powerless of them!
    Here is an example of liberalism for you students. If you earn an A on your report card, you will have to share your A with the guy who got a D, so that everyone gets a B and passes. And here’s a reality check. If you disagree with a liberal teacher’s political point of view, they will flunk you, and your GPA will drop, destroying any chance of you getting into the college of your dreams. Yup that’s Socialism for you.
    So be prepared for the accusations of being uppity, rich, powerful, and smart, because liberals are driven to shame you and want to bring you down to their level. Their envy and self-pity has deep roots. If they can’t shame you, they will sue you, making YOU the powerless one. That is what the ACLU does. They will take your kid’s education fund, and give it to some bleeding heart liberal who wants to put their kid in college with your money.
    You can always recognize a liberal by the chip on their shoulder, their envious comments about your prosperity, their lack of respect, and their need for control. They refuse to look at the facts and make assumptions that fit their beliefs. They play the race card, or the blame game, and run away from responsibility. They always have their hand out, and can’t wait to file a lawsuit and get rich off of you, instead of getting ahead on their own merit. The poor me’s are always the victim of something. And they will make everyone pay for the injustice of it all. But the reality is that their powerlessness is self-inflicted. Only an education, a job, and psychotherapy can improve such negative attitudes and dysfunctional belief systems.

  • James DeWolf Perry

    FOREIGNID: 16394
    Kimberly, the DeWolfs are not suggesting that you apologize for slavery, or that you pay reparations.
    Some of the DeWolfs believe that Congress should apologize, since Congress was actually there at the time, supported slavery and allowed it to exist in this country for generations.
    As for reparations, in the film, only one of the ten DeWolf family members argues for reparations … and he supports investment in our children’s education and similar activities, not payments to the descendants of slaves.
    I feel no need to defend liberals from your comments about them, but I will put in a word on behalf of the A.C.L.U. That organization exists, last I checked, to promote and defend constitutional freedoms. That wouldn’t seem to include an agenda to “take your kid’s education fund.” If you disagree with their interpretation of any particular constitutional provision, that’s your prerogative. They’ve defended socialists and neo-Nazis alike. I’m a big believer in our Constitution, and I’ll support anyone willing to defend it against all comers.

  • sarah McGivney

    FOREIGNID: 16395
    I just want to say, not having read all the comments, thank you all for bringing this to the forefront. I am a member of the human race, therefore I share the blame for anything that we do. Our treatment of the Africans was abhorent and I am so ashamed. I am so so so sorry and ready to really find a way that we humans can be more humane. As one of you said…”what are we doing now” that is similiar and just seems normal….I just don’t know where to begin. Before we can begin we have to let down our defenses and accept
    blame…from there we may be able to heal.

  • Rick White

    FOREIGNID: 16396
    After watching the show and reading many but not all of the comments I had the feeling that something was being missed. Many groups of people have benefited from the exploitation of other groups and it would be wonderful if each group could recognize and acknowledge both how they have exploited others and how they have also been exploited. My concern is that the focus on the past is a distraction from the massive exploitation that is happening now. The supply side policies of our government are resulting in obscene profits for U. S. corporations while the actions of those corporations devastate millions of people and destroy the environment. The money earned by CEO’s and hedge fund managers, I would guess, dwarfs in inflation adjusted terms the money made by James DeWolf and his ancestors. The only reference to this in the documentary was the woman who said that she buys things made by people who are not paid what they are worth. It goes so far beyond that. An alternative to reparations is to not repeat the past.

  • John Craig

    FOREIGNID: 16397
    I refuse to accept any responsibility for events that happened before I was born and for act I didn’t personally commit after I was born.
    John C.
    This comment has been edited by the moderator.

  • John Craig

    FOREIGNID: 16398
    To the Moderator,
    thanks for editing my comments.

  • Margaret Wade

    FOREIGNID: 16399
    About five years ago I began doing research on my grandmother’s family, who lived in western Kentucky and northwest Arkansas before and after the Civil War. Several of my ancestors were doctors and lawyers who also farmed on a small scale; all of them owned small numbers of slaves. Letters written by family members in the mid-18th century make it clear that they thought of their slaves as commodities; as portable, semi-liquid assets that were traded among different parts of the family and across state lines for economic reasons. I will probably never know whether they treated their slaves more or less “humanely” compared with other slave owners; what I do understand is that they participated in a wholly evil system, for the most part without apparently questioning it. They were people of their times and of a particular culture.
    For all I know the ancestors of my other three grandparents, most of whom lived in New England and fought for the Union during the Civil War, benefited in direct or indirect ways from the profits of the slave trade. I think it is likely that those who emigrated to Massachusetts in early colonial times played a role in the decimation of Native American culture there. I will never know for certain, however, because we don’t have documentation or any information about the lives of those people. The large collection of 19th century letters from my grandmother’s family provide a unique opportunity, however painful some of my family members find it, for some real insight into the past.
    I wouldn’t say it is shame or guilt or that I feel about this legacy, but rather a deep and abiding sense of grief. Grief about the brokenness in our culture around the legacy of colonialism and slavery and the discrimination—whether direct and brutal or more subtle—that followed it, as much as about the personal past of my own family. Anger that so many of us European-Americans (and I do not count myself or my family as an exception here) are still unable to acknowledge that reality or the socio-economic privilege that we continue to benefit from, regardless of who our ancestors were and how directly they were involved in slavery.
    I feel an increasingly strong desire to make things right here and now in the 21st century, to participate in a more active way in confronting the past and in finding ways, however inadequate, to raise awareness and seek both socio-economic justice/equality and healing. We need a new Civil Rights movement in this country, and I need to be a part of it.
    We have just begun discussions in my family about the possibility of reparations. The direct economic benefit of our ancestors’ slave-owning disappeared after the Civil War: a small, hardscrabble farm in the Ozark Mountains was what was left. However, like many who have posted on this forum we have recognized that educational opportunity is the true inheritance of our family’s involvement in slavery. Creating a scholarship fund seems like a good response. I have much to do to convince other family members to contribute and to find the best way to carry out this intent, but I am determined….

  • Stuart Williams

    FOREIGNID: 16400
    I have not (and cannot) read the entire discussion thread at this point, but it seems to me that no one has really worked out a remedy to the fundamental issue in this matter. The film and the ensuing discussions have largely focused on the relatively recent (as compared to world history) era of the African slave trade and the current attitudes around race relations. The foundational cause of the African slave trade, and our nation’s involvement in it, is hostile human (racial/national/tribal, etc.) relations; relations that have existed and caused the same sorts of atrocities on human kind long before the African slave trade ever began. Anyone who will think it over will realize that the African slave trade, alone, didn’t created the hostilities and inequities that now exist between European and African descendants in our country. The pre-existence of interracial hostility in the world first created an atmosphere that made the trafficking of human beings, to be sold as slaves, a conceivable, and even doable thing to those who felt they could do so unopposed. Now that the fight to end this; only one of the latest manifestations of gross inhumanity, has largely succeeded, I am sure that symbolic apologies and reparations are not the correct way forward.
    Reparations have been represented as many different things, from a simple monetary dole-out to a complex system of education and investments. While some of these practical measures are right, and should be voluntarily pursued, to call them “reparations” and assume them to be obligatory is a mistake. The problem with the concept of “reparations” is its connection to our nation’s historical involvement in the African slave trade. To hang that past on people living today could only cause an undeserved sense of entitlement in some, and an undeserved guilt in others. Most likely, though, a resentment and continued hostility between African and European descendants will ensue. The only thing decent Americans need do about our nation’s involvement in the African slave trade is to abhor it. Please do not mistake that as meaning “ignore it”, because we all must learn from our past so as not to repeat it. However, to take any actions today that are directly related to that part of our nation’s past would simply be to cause the return of a certain aberration of that past. We cannot afford to return to the mistakes of our past. As a society, our efforts must focus on moving forward, not reaching backward.
    While the years of efforts on the part of abolitionist, moralists and civil right champions have succeeded in criminalizing the specters of slavery and discrimination in the United States, and much of the modern world, race relations remain strained. The final bastion of racial disharmony in this world, however, cannot be removed by civil uprisings or state legislatures. This remaining form of racism is rooted deep in the human heart and can only be removed by the individual who holds it. But only when the individual can recognize it can it then be dealt with.
    Any regard, whether favorable or unfavorable, which is based on a person’s race is a perpetuation of racism. The obvious practice of showing hostility or ill regard towards a person of a different race is immediately recognized as racist. But, a more subtle and widely accepted form of racism continues in our societies, and that unchallenged. When a person assumes a character because they believe it expresses their race, that person is practicing racism. This is a racism that is actually encouraged by all of the world’s races, and is very difficult to eradicate. It is impossible to tell by cursory observation whether this form of racism is being practiced by any person. It’s possible that the person observed is actually being their genuine self. As well, assuming some characteristic, alone, whether recognized or not as being of a certain race, is not that perpetuation of racism. But, as stated before, when a person assumes a behavior because of their race, they are practicing a subtle and largely accepted form of racism. The damages that this racism causes, though, is that it engenders the idea that the external person determines the internal person. It leads to the belief that if I am “white” I must behave “white” or if I am “black” I must behave “black”, or “if I am…”, fill in the blank. And, anyone who doesn’t assume the behavior of their race is trying to be something that they are not. It causes people to segregate apart from any unjust law, and leads to a self-imposed class system. This kind of thinking is the seed plot of more overt forms of racism, because the individual who holds to it assumes characteristic on his or her self, and on those of other races. More often than not, the characteristics assumed on those of other races are lessening and even dehumanizing. It is this mentality that, over time, grows into genocides and the enslavement of human beings.
    So, what action can concerned citizens of the United States take today? Inasmuch as this root of racial disharmony cannot be removed by laws or organized mass movements, every fair-minded person, as much as such a person is able, should be an influence on everyone who will give them audience to accept the facts that race only affects a person externally; that no one of us posses any characteristic that is above, below or separated from any other of us; and that we truly are equal creatures in every way. As these facts begin to gain wide and genuine acceptance, Americans of all races will truly live together, create greater equitability in the economic and social institutions of the United States, and indeed, the world, and all people will share equally in the prosperity of their lands.

  • Barbara

    FOREIGNID: 16401
    Ok, I just watched this program last night with my husband and let me tell you people from the DeWolf family. You have nothing to apologize about! Period!!!! Stop blaming yourselves for something you relatives did. Its not your fault. You owe no one anything!!!! People did what they did back then and that has nothing to do with us. The African people sold their own people and for what? They made money and were living good. If African people want to be pissed off at someone, let them be upset at Africans for selling them. I recall our US President Abraham Lincoln settling this whole issue for all of us. That’s your apology, accept it and move on. You wouldn’t even be living in the US if it hadn’t been for slave trade. And living in the US is a good thing. Stop all this negativity and be positive. Look at the good it brought. Yes people were slaves. Yes people were treated bad. Look at what happened to the Native American Indians. Do they want an apology? Do they ask for compensation? Are they upset? Come on people. Let it go for God’s sake. What if God held a grudge against us for everything we did wrong, Dear Lord. None of us would ever step foot into Heaven.
    So the solution is simple. LET IT GO!!! The past is the past. It’s HISTORY. You are not suffering, I am not suffering. In fact we are all living. Some may not have as much as others but oh well. Stop this past guilt. Remember President Lincoln did all the apologizing for you. WE ARE FREE!!!! Now accept it and move forward.
    edited by moderator for language

  • Barbara

    FOREIGNID: 16402
    I am a relative of a great Native American Indian Chief. Do you feel sorry for me? They took our land and treated us like garbage. Killed our people and massacred thousands of us, and yet I hold no grudge against white people or any other race. They owe me nothing!!!!

  • Kimberly

    FOREIGNID: 16403
    I grew up in Michigan. During desegregation in the 1960’s, black kids were bussed to white schools. The blacks preferred their own neighborhood schools and I didn’t blame them. Desegregation didn’t work, but it was an honest attempt at affirmative action to help inner city kids to have the same educational opportunities.
    What we learned was that white and black cultures are totally different. Most of us got along fine. Some blacks segregated themselves off and refused to speak to us whites. Because the blacks had to leave on busses, we didn’t have much chance to get to know each other. If we had, it would have eradicated any distrust between us.
    My mother’s best friend was black. No one in our family was prejudiced against blacks. My Mom had some harrowing stories to tell about the black neighborhoods of Georgia. It seems that racial tension has always been greater in the south than in the north.
    As a conservative white woman, I have been the subject of prejudice from people of all skin colors. It is too bad that racism prevents them from seeing me. I shared my experiences with my friends and they report the same abuses.
    The fact that slavery has existed for millenniums doesn’t make it right. Slavery is a terrible wound upon the psyche. It causes mental, emotional and physical abuse. I have not experienced slavery the way that that those in the past did, but I can empathize. I was in an abusive marriage that took me ten years to get out of. I escaped with my life, and regained my health, identity, voice, worth, and independence. In order for me to become free, I had to learn to forgive and let go of victim consciousness.
    I think that black Americans deal with their heritage in their own way. It is a personal journey to wholeness, and I hope that they cherish the strength and good that comes from their recovery. If they choose to make it a sacred journey, and speak in hushed tones about it, so be it. Oprah searched for her ancestors, and visited Africa. I hope that her example will encourage more Americans to seek their ancestry.
    I am not a proponent of reparations and I do not concur with bloggers who say that we are all responsible for slavery. We cannot go back 400 years dears. It is just not possible to determine who is responsible for what. Let it go, and learn to forgive. The greatest gift you can give the world is to find peace and happiness for yourself, and strive to make your lives better for your children.
    I think that an open forum on the internet where Americans can speak freely without judgment about racial issues is a good start. Maybe our local social groups (churches, schools, clubs, organizations, and companies) could meet and share traditions, food, and stories about their families. That way we could get to know each other in a relaxed setting and establish some common ground. This would go a long way toward breaking down racial barriers.

  • Michelle J

    FOREIGNID: 16404
    I just don’t get these folks who want to bash the filmmaker and her family. I’m an African American woman and I WANT to hear what these folks have to say about their past.
    It’s a view that I don’t hear. I KNOW what black folk think about slavery. I want to hear how the “other side” is grappling with this.
    Often when white folks talk do about slavery many of them say what folks have said in this forum: Get over it. Not MY fault. Ancient history, blah, blah, blah.
    Well, seems to me that we’re ALL connected. Blacks, Native Americans, Asians, Europeans, whoever. And we’re all locked in a vicious cycle pointing directly back to past injustices. A whole bunch of them. :)
    Acting like all of these atrocities are not the root cause is what’s gotten us to what we have today: Anger, finger-pointing, and a lot of misunderstanding.
    Personally I’m not holding up a ruler to anyone else’s grief and suffering or asking them to study my history or life before we can have a conversation.
    We’re all in this together. We all still suffer the consequences, whether we clearly see it or not.
    And it can’t be fixed without all of us at the table.
    So, just sit down and talk people. And listen, too.

  • Kimberly

    FOREIGNID: 16405
    Mr. De Wolf Perry,
    I am glad to hear that not all of your family supports reparations. If your family wishes to set up an education fund, fine, but I am firmly opposed to higher taxes.
    Since this is a new thing for you all, I just want to warn you not to fall into the role of playing saviour.
    I wonder if you have seen what the ACLU is doing these days. Our city spent millions of dolllars over 18 years to keep a cross from being removed from a war memorial by the ACLU. It took a voter referendum, Congress, and the President to stop them. The ACLU has been dubbed Anti-American because of the way they have gone against the majority, by the way the have been removing religious symbols from our government buildings and schools, and removing the word God from our pledge of allegiance. Liberals and atheists are using the ACLU to remove the long standing positive symbols that were created by our founding fathers.
    As far as my comment about the ACLU taking our kids college funds – anytime you have to go to court, your savings are tapped. And that means less money for your kids, and more money for the attorney’s kids.

  • Barbara

    FOREIGNID: 16406
    First of all, why is it that people with so called white skin are called white people, and people with black skin are called African American? What if I am a so called white skinned person, and yet I am from Africa? Am I still white, or am I an African American? What exactly makes me or you an African American? Juanita Brown needs a reality check. She is not owed anything. No one alive today is a slave, nor have they ever been a slave. No one today has been mistreated as slaves may have been. It seems that they have a big chip on your shoulder, along with many other people, like for instance the woman that would not acknowledge the so called white man when in Africa. When is the chip ever gonna go away. It seems to me that people just love to keep that chip for an acceptable excuse to be a racist. PERIOD!!!!
    And by the way Kimberly, you are right. The ACLU is not for the Americans, in fact they are against everything that America stands for. Everything that our Forefathers have stood for and built, the ACLU is trying to tear down. I vote for the ACLJ. They are the ones who are here to help the American people and what this country stands for.
    edited by moderator for content and language

  • doug crawford

    FOREIGNID: 16407
    Well, the first two commentors obv didnt get it. This was one of the best programs I have seen on TV in quite some time. To find out I grew up in he backyard of the Charleston of the North was an eye opening experience. Being born, raised, and educated in southeastern Mass, this bit of history was NEVER discussed. Thank you for airing this.

  • Mark

    FOREIGNID: 16408
    Reflecting on the issue of reparations as both a clincial social worker and an Episcopal Priest, I recall a condition called “victim consciousness” which is a mind set of someone with the defined self image of being a victim. As long as we think we’re victims, we lose our internal freedom. Frankl wrote of this as a “victim” in Nazi concentration camps. To seek reparations from centuries past continues to imprison a person’s consciousness that he or she is a victim. Victim consciousness actually disempowers a person to remain a victim. Forgiveness is the only way to free oneself from the injustice of others. Everyone has the right to blame others for something such the south on the invasion of the north and the genocide done to women and children in the Lincoln adminstration’s policy on war on civilians (you won’t find it in a school history book). We can remember the past so as not to repeat it, but in order to be free, resentment has to go.

  • John Craig

    FOREIGNID: 16409
    Reparations Question
    Are reparations supposed to be paid to every black person in America until the end of time? How many generations of blacks are supposed to receive them?
    I say this because blacks want restitution from something that happened 4 and higher generations ago. When are the reparation payments supposed to stop?

  • James DeWolf Perry

    FOREIGNID: 16410
    John, I believe that the advocates of reparations, in the sense that you mean the term, are asking only for a one-time payment. I haven’t heard anyone asking for ongoing payments to successive generations.

  • Kimberly

    FOREIGNID: 16411
    Dear Michelle
    I agree with you about wanting to hear the De Wolf’s story from a historical stand point, as it relates to the issue of slavery. Maybe they can be of some help to those of you who are struggling to find your ancestors.
    I do not agree with the reparations part, as it is a Pandora’s box,
    I agree with your thoughts about sitting down and listening. I would like to hear about what went on in the south in your neighborhood. Read my earlier posting on this blog.
    I agree with you about victim consciousness, resentment, and the chip on the shoulder as being a hurdle to forgiveness.
    And lastly, if anyone thinks that whie people don’t suffer from racism, think again. You may want to read my prior posting.

  • Kim Arnette

    FOREIGNID: 16412
    While I think that Katrina and her family made what were obviously some important discoveries about their family’s horrible connection to the American slave trade, I was really put off by their ignorance and self-pity. Granted, I’ve lived in a very diverse area most of my life, but I still cannot believe that there are so many people in this country who are so clueless about the impact of slavery and bigotry here!
    I can’t begin to speak for black Americans–and it’s tremendously stupid to think that they should/could be of one single mind anyway. My gut, though, tells me that reparations are more complex than any organization in this government could ever handle with any competence. Being motivated by a guilty conscience risks consequences that are absolutely insulting, and apologies, while certainly proper if sincere, only go so far. Let’s try for compassion, respect, and dignity all around.
    To the DeWolf family and anyone else who cares, I suggest that you consider working against the degradation and suffering that goes on right now, every day. Insist on living wages (minimum wage doesn’t cut it anymore) for everyone. Improve salaries for anybody who “help people to help themselves.” Shop at small businesses as often as you can, and take advantage of face-to-face social activities with people you consider somehow different from you. Cry about the past if it heals you, but look at making realistic change today.

  • Baba S. Ifatunji

    FOREIGNID: 16413
    An Open Letter to Katrina Browne
    From the Man at the River
    Dear Ms. Browne,
    My mother-in-law called me the other day to tell me she had seen me on TV. When she described the program and told me what she had seen me doing I was a little surprised and told her I didn’t remember being in any movie. However, I remembered the moment seven years ago. She told me the program would probably air again at some time early the next morning, but in case I missed it she’d try to get a recording of it to me. After finding out it was scheduled for 3 A.M. I was pretty much resolved that I’d have to wait for the recording, but knowing that I often woke up in the middle of the night, I told myself that if I did I’d watch it and record it myself. Sure enough I woke at 2:50 A.M. so I rolled out of bed and checked it out. Seeing the movie resulted in my having a mildly tearful moment.
    I didn’t get back to sleep and I spent most of the next day trying to process that moment. While I knew I needed to write something to you it took a couple more days for my thoughts to settle in. During that time I found myself describing the moment to family, friends and students as “self affirming and motivating”. I am the man you captured in the middle of the film doing a cleansing ceremony at the river, and cited in your sermon at the end of the film as “an African American leader”.
    I am, in fact, an African American Ifa priest (in the tradition of the Yoruba of Southwest Nigeria) and had been asked earlier that day by the group with which I was traveling to perform the ritual. I am also a Professor of Theatre and African American Studies who was fulfilling a long time dream of sharing one of my plays at PANAFEST. The play, “Secret Society”, is based on an ancient sacred Ifa story which has a theme of family unifying to solve its problems. I have since found the play, a first draft, to be well intentioned, but poorly written and in much need of a rewrite.
    The thing that seems to have touched me, however, is the connection between the intention of the play and what seems to be the driving force behind your film. As were many of the people at PANAFEST, we were, in true festival tradition, motivated to revisit the past by a compulsion to heal. The reason I easily remembered the moment at the river bank that you cited at the end of your film is that I have cited it many times myself. Having been called to action in my priestly capacity I had worked hard to devise a meaningful ritual for that day. Hearing the history of the Asin Mansu River gave me the key. As Africans of North America we had returned to a place where a portion of our people had passed on their journey into a horrifying and inhumane experience. During this experience the descendants of those passengers had accumulated substantial spiritual and psychological wounds.
    In Ifa tradition we have a goddess named Oshun. She is a river goddess and as such has the capacity to cleanse. Though she is the goddess of a specific river in Nigeria, in the New World we acknowledge her a being the goddess of any river which has that same capacity. The Asin Mansu had been used to clean the captives before taking them into their ordeal. As a river it, therefore, was a holy place representing a time before the deepest horrors of that ordeal. It occurred to me that we should use Her waters to cleanse ourselves of the scabs produced by captivity. So, there at the river we made a small sacrifice, invoked Oshun and asked her to help us do so.
    I thought it would only be our group who would go to the river for the ritual so as the Durbar wound down I gathered them up and headed to the river. In the middle of performing the ritual I heard and saw many other people from the Durbar being led to the river bank to make their own ritualistic visit. Our group had actually set itself up in the most convenient place at the river’s edge and when the other arrived we realized we had commenced the ritual in the place they had intended to be. When we all realized this the later arrivals graciously proceeded to another place at the river’s edge to conclude their pilgrimage. We went on with our ritual and as I got to the end of cleaning the members of our smaller group I realized that members of the larger group who had come later were lining up to be cleaned. I went on and performed the ritual for many of them too. As the end of the new line began to appear to this now exhausted priest so did an unexpected person.
    Dr. Len Jefferies was the founding Chair of the Black Studies Department at San Jose State University. He had established that Department during the turbulent 1970’s, a time when I was completing my undergraduate degree in Theatre. I decided to take the opportunity to double major and simultaneously complete a B.A. in Black Studies in his program. One of the things he’d taught me was that revolution was cyclical. He said there was a revolution every generation. I asked him how long a generation was and he replied that it was generally thought of as about every thirty some odd years. Here we were, thirty some odd years later at the bank of the Asin Mansu River.
    Knowing that Professors don’t remember all of their students, I explained our connection, told him I had since become an Ifa priest, explained the ritual and asked if he would like to participate. He did. Afterward, I remember feeling gratified that I’d had the opportunity to give something back to someone who, through his work, had unconsciously meant so much to me. The B.A. in Black studies had led to my entering the priesthood which prepared me to do such cleaning and healing ceremonies.
    I packed up the ritual objects and headed back up the bank of the river on my way back to Cape Coast. I was physically tired from the ritual, somewhat spiritually exhausted, but also full of the satisfaction I felt as a result of that moment with Dr. Jefferies. That’s when I ran into your cousin Zain.
    He stopped me and asked me if I could perform the same cleansing ritual for him and his family. I have a faint memory of seeing you and perhaps one or two of your family standing a step or two behind him. I, of course, had no idea of who you all were, much less that you were making a film, but I recall being flabbergasted. “Doesn’t this man see how tired I am”, I thought. “This”, I thought, “is indicative of the audacity of White people.” However, as you stated in your sermon at the end of your film, I smiled.
    In Ifa tradition we are taught that our existence and our worldview begin with our ancestors. We, therefore, enshrine them and stay in touch with them spiritually, not only as part of our process for solving today’s family problems, but as part of our obligation to help elevate our ancestors and heal the wounds of the sometimes misguided and tragic experiences of their lives. The elders of each family are responsible for keeping the family shrine. So, I replied to Zain as I did. “That’s the responsibility of your family’s healing belong to your own elders.”
    When Zain said he thought I’d say something like that I thought, “This man thinks I said that because I harbor some reverse racist attitude.” After seeing your film I realize that many people had communicated a similar message to you about talking to your own people.
    In fact, the reason I have told the story of our encounter at the river so many times is that I have had to defend a practice of my religious order which has often been accused of being racist. Our order only initiates people of African descent into its priesthood. This was a conscious decision made by the founders of the order, led by Oba Adefunmi, I (bless his soul in heaven). It was his thinking that “…when one member of the human family betrays another through enslavement, or selling or genocide, then the offended family may repudiate the offending member; who by his betrayal of the family forfeits his right of inheritance to the family fortune or the family legacy, or in our case the family secrets.” He often, additionally, described this principle as a need for a period of cultural privacy during which Africans of North America can work on our own problems.
    Though we do provide service to a few people who are not of African descent we believe that we have increased our productivity by focusing on ourselves. I have always felt that taking this path would not prevent us from having a beneficent impact on people of other racial and cultural descent. Your film has affirmed for me that this could be so. Ifa tells us that our role as human beings is to bring good to the world and that as such we are in a way our brother’s keepers. My feeling is that if we all tend to bringing good to our part of the world our mission as human beings will be fulfilled.
    In closing, I’d like to go back to the sacred story from the Ifa odu Orangun Meji that was the message of my play “Secret Society”. In one of the early meetings of your family group shown in the film a family member revealed that it had been a family rule not to talk about the Negros. I’m glad you have gotten past that. In Orangun Meji (a group of stories) is the story of the formation of the first Yoruba secret society, the Ogboni. It tells us that the first secret society is the family. This first society, however, has grown over the centuries to become the traditional town council responsible for solving the problems between people in the town. It’s my prayer that the successful problem solving in our families and towns will lead to human beings succeeding in our charge to bring good to the world.
    Our culture also teaches us that there is no such thing as an accident and that what comes around goes around. I believe our sacrifice to the Asin Mansu River, my encounter with Dr. Jefferies and the healing prayers of the Minister at the end of your film are exemplary of the revolutions implied by that world view. I know that for some members of your family the interest in healing will continue. Though I know that work with your own family and people must be a priority, we all have encounters with other families and people which allow us to contribute to new cycles of action. I would, therefore, like to offer the names of a few organizations I think have proven themselves to be worthy of support. Oyotunji African Village, the Chicago Council on Black Studies and, the Illinois Trans Atlantic Slave Trade Commission have all for years worked successfully to better understand the problems of the past. They have taught and motivated people. They too are healing people from the wounds.
    Adupe (we give thanks to) Oshun.
    May the healing continue,
    Baba Songodina Ifatunji
    Awo in Residence, Ile Ifa Jalumi

  • David P

    FOREIGNID: 16414
    My family and many others that I know – In fact, I cay say everyone that I know – has nothing to do with the slave trade in any way, shape or form.
    Why is the “white man” always the devil? What really got my goat in the program was the Cape Coast history professor who failed to tell of the African’s who would round up the unlucky soon-to-be slaves from the interior of the continent to make a quick sale of ‘four handkerchiefs and a bottle of rum’ for a slave. Amercian did not invade African for it’s endless supply of ‘slaves’. These poor people were bought and sold and shipped off to many parts of the world. And they were gathered up by other Africans.
    If reparations are in order these are the people to make the payments: The DeWolfs and all other families whose business it was to sell humans as a commodity. In addition, the African families who gathered unknowing innocent people to become slaves.
    What I find most disgusting about this entire program is that some bible believing Christians did such horrendous acts against fellow human beings…all for a buck.
    Slavery still exists today. There is still a slave trade in Africa (amongst rival tribes). Sex slaves bought and across the world. Children sold to manufacturer as cheap expendable machines. Parents selling there children into marriage.
    If the DeWolfs would like to pay, please go ahead and write the checks.
    My check will be void.

  • Kimberly

    FOREIGNID: 16415
    Dear Baba Ifatunji,
    I liked what you wrote about establishing a shrine to the ancestors:
    “In Ifa tradition we are taught that our existence and our worldview begins with our ancestors. We, therefore, enshrine them and stay in touch with them spiritually, not only as part of our process for solving today’s family problems, but as part of our obligation to help elevate our ancestors and heal the wounds of the sometimes misguided and tragic experiences of their lives. The elders of each family are responsible for keeping the family shrine. ”
    I think that it would be good to establish historical places and public shrines to slavery (in addition to the private family shrines) so that the public could learn and reflect on the great lessons of slavery, and even have a moment of prayer. There are war memorials around the world, and I feel that a shrine to slavery would not be that different. I would welcome the opportunity to visit the northern factories and southern plantations to learn about slavery, and offer prayers for the healing of those involved. Some may want to vilify the slave traders or the owners, but if they do, they must also vilify the tribesmen who abducted their ancestors in the first place. Not only were Africans betrayed by their neighboring tribesman, but they had to survive an oceanic journey, and endure hard labor with inhumane treatment. That’s a triple whammy. In addition. some slave families were split up and sold to different parties. All of this breaking up of families must have caused a terrible wound.
    Oprah hired a geneologist to track down her ancestors. They found written records and grave stones. If the descendents of slave traders and slave owners could make their records available to geneologists, and the Illinois Trans Atlantic Slave Trade Commission, it would go a long way towards healing the past. It would be good for African-Americans to find their lost family members and return them to their rightful place on the family tree. This would elevate them with respect and dignity. African American communities need heroes and it would be appropriate for their ancestors to be treated as heroes for all their suffering and great fortitude. Some families may have already started their search, and some may not have started yet. But I hope that they all find their way to wholeness. LOL

  • Tim Bickford

    FOREIGNID: 16416
    Although the film did come across as a group therapy session
    for DeWolfe descendants, it did go into places that most people
    do not enjoy going into and evoked blunt discussions about
    history and race that both created deeper understanding
    and a sense of polarization.
    I am always struck by the distances that 18th century
    mariners were able to conquer. Those geographic
    barriers were not just geographic– as they fostered
    centuries of misunderstanding and dehumanization.’
    One African historian stated that slavery was all over
    the continent, as well as Europe and Asia. With the infiltration of guns the situation in Africa became exponentially worse. Europeans brought more,
    guns and rum, war became more widespread and as
    war spread, there were more POW’s and hence more enslaved Africans. As development of the America’s grew, the lure of huge profits took over.
    It is not all that big a stretch to transpose this dynamic
    to the present. The current global economy similarly
    depends on cheap labor, and yes, slavery. The slave trade
    is bigger today than it was in 1800. The goal should not so much be trying
    to assuage white guilt as it is dealing with the much the same
    dynamic. Capitalism is founded on cheap labor and
    continues to be. Working for fair trade laws, better programs for the
    poor, an international minimum wage, and abolition of modern slavery are the best remedies for past gross injustices.

  • CJ Hunter

    FOREIGNID: 16417
    Just got through watching the documentary and I have to say that it is a step in the right direction. This dialogue should be started in every community in American so that the things that divide us as a nation can be put behind us. Will it be done in one generation, no but it can start in one. Maybe my great children can be the generation who benefits from the discussion that started today. I, a black man who served his country in the Army for 24 years, don�t want a single dollar in reparations from any white person for the past transgression committed against my ancestors. What will it do for me anyway? What I would like to have is an honest and open discussion with ANY white person, descendant from the founding fathers or those �new� immigrants who came over in the late 1800/early 1900. This country will never heal itself of the social scars done to those of us who were not of European descendent. The Native American was almost killed off in the pursuit of colonization & the policy of �Manifest Destiny.� The African was brought to this land because he was cheap labor and could be subjugated to being made lower than the livestock on the plantation because of the color of his skin. Let�s not forget the injustice done to the Chinese while bridging the country by rail. And how can we forget how Japanese-Americans were thrown into �concentration camps� during WWII because American wasn�t sure where their allegiance was to. And all of these injustices were done by a people who called themselves Christian and used the teachings of the Bible as justification.
    In all of these examples, it was the whites in power who contrived to keep each of these wronged partied down by any means necessary. And the failure to even try and sit down to honestly discuss these past atrocities will never allow this country to heal itself and go forward as one people. I want anyone to tell me how slavery existed in a country that prided itself on these words: �We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.� I guess that at certain times in our nations� history, it was convenient to forget those words. Also, how after the Civil War was fought and freed slaves tried to make a life for themselves, people in white hoods rode across the land trying to keep them down. And still later, how laws were passed that in effect said separate but equal, which never really lived up to the meaning. How a black man could be lynched for just looking a white woman? How WWI & WWII black Americans had to fight both the Germans and the prejudices their fellow white Americans soldiers had for them? And to come home and still fight the racial injustices heaped on them by an ungrateful nation. How crosses were burned on my lawn because I moved into a neighborhood that felt I wasn�t good enough to live there. There are still many other examples I could put here but the point remains, the whites in power at all times in our country�s history left a legacy that is still affecting our nation today. So, while I don�t wear my anger on my sleeve every day of my life, I won�t ever forget the injustices done to my race and every other race of people who didn�t look like the whites in power at the time. One day everything will work itself out but I am afraid that time will be too late and the judgment accorded to all men will be swift in its application the righteous on earth who condoned these injustices or stood by and watched will be found wanting.
    edited by moderator for language

  • Denise Hawkins

    FOREIGNID: 16418
    To David P don’t ever say never (Obama running for what) and you NEVER…

  • CJ Hunter

    FOREIGNID: 16419
    To every person who continue to believe that Africans brought to this country as slaves were better off here rather than living in Africa, I have to ask are you all high? Slavery in this country was profound on so many levels that I can�t begin to describe it. Take for instance being made to feel less worthy than livestock? How about being sold on the auction block? How about a 5 person family being sold to separate masters? How about being beaten because you tried to learn how to read? How about the �massa� using the Bible to justify your enslavement and they called themselves Christians. You try to point out that live in Africa wasn�t a rosy picture, well guess what, I will never know about it because an ancestor of mine was ripped from there so many years ago. Africa, today, is a product of European colonialism that after almost 40-50 years still bears the scars of so much interference. Europeans believed it was their God given duty to bring culture to the heathens of Africa, spare me that. Everywhere Europeans have spread their influence has changed the world and not always for the better. Just ask the peoples of South & Central Americas. Yes, Africa had slavery but it wasn�t anything like the type that existed in America. At least in past African slavery, the slave could obtain his freedom, be allowed to integrate into the tribe and eventually could marry into and become a part of it. It wasn�t the debasing, dehumanizing type that was practiced here. So forgive me if I say, I wonder how my different my life could have been if I had grown up in an Africa free of European influence.
    And if I read one comment about people coming to American after slavery was over and I have nothing to feel guilty about, I am going to scream. Yes, Irish, Polish, German, Italians and other Europeans who immigrated to America were discriminated against but eventually, you experienced an acceptance that black Americans never really did. I guarantee you that your ancestors benefitted from having white skin and some of them probably tried to deny blacks to move in their white neighborhoods of Chicago, Philadelphia and so many other white enclaves during the �50s, 60s and �70s. They probably didn�t want to work along side them in the auto and steel plants and other industry that were considered whites only jobs. These immigrants and their descendants perpetrated the legacy of slavery that still endures in one form or another today. So please spare me your righteousness and how about asking your parents, grandparents and great grandparents how they helped (yeah right) black Americans to enjoy the same quality of life they themselves enjoyed.
    edited by moderator for language and content

  • Harold Jone

    FOREIGNID: 16420
    My ancestors owned slaves and I dont give a hoot. I do not feel guilty not even an ounce. I do not feel shame and do not have white guilt. I dont really care. I never owned a slave so get the heck over it.
    Africa is so lovely with all the rapes, murders, genoicides, AIDS infestations, exotic diseases, flies, starvation and overpopulation. What a great continent. All you that live in America should go kiss Massa’s feet. I am a proud white (Caucasion) and fell ZERO guilt over the sins of my fathers. The De Wofs’ are nothing but a bunch of whiny, liberal, aclu loving weaklings.
    edited by moderator for personal attack

  • Kimberly

    FOREIGNID: 16421
    Dear CJ,
    Firstly I want to thank you for your service to our country. I would be proud to shake your hand sir. I truly wish that there had been a hero’s welcome for you and your fellow servicemen. I remember, in the days of the Vietnam War, when liberals took their anger out on servicemen when they arrived home. It was terrible of them to project their disapproval onto you. Our beloved servicemen are the skin of our country. Without them, our nation would be subject to invasion and annihilation.
    Los Angeles gave our war veterans an honorary welcome home parade in the 1980’s. I wish that you could have been there to hear the crowd go wild when the Vietnam vets and their POW flags came marching down the street. We were ecstatic about showing our brave soldiers that we cared, and that we honored them for their service. Many of us cried as we waved our flags.
    I read ythat you were restricted from working certain jobs, and when a cross was burned on your lawn. Racially motivated acts of violence are traumatizing, and no one deserves to be treated that way. I pray that such actions are not tolerated in America any longer. Everyone wants a good education, a good paying job, and a safe neighborhood to raise their kids in. As far as telling the truth about slavery in our school books, I want you to know that I got the truth in Michigan where I went to school with blacks, and I got the truth in college in California.
    I am glad that you don’t wear your anger on your sleeve. Anger lets us know that there is something coming up for healing. Junkyard dog anger stems from fear. Our fight or flight knee jerk reactions help us to survive, but it is not very useful in every day interactions. I would never ask anyone to forget about the traumatic events of the past, because they provide opportunities to grow and get to know what we are made of. I would venture to say that clinical hypnosis, EMDR and EFT is a good way to calm the sting of traumatic events, and to understand the attendant lessons surrounding them.
    “May the conscience and the common sense of the peoples be awakened, so that we may reach a new stage in the life of nations, where people will look back on war as an incomprehensible aberration of their forefathers!”
    Albert Einstein
    I think that Einstein wouldn’t mind if we added two words to his statement, so that it said, “people will look back on war and slavery as an incomprehensible aberration of our forefathers.”
    The lesson of slavery is a very big one. One could say that it is a national lesson, but I prefer to see it as a world lesson. And that we as a nation, have a good start on healing it. I think that each person is responsible for their own healing process. And I hope that we can continue to become the hero of our own lives.
    Slavery has to do with recovering from powerlessness and abuse. Both the perpetrator and the victim have been abused at some point in their lives. Each of us needs to take responsibility for healing our own stuff. Playing the blame game won’t work because it just keeps us stuck. I know because I have played that game before.
    Where does all this abuse and slavery come from? In the history of Europe we see Monarchs, Lords and ladies, feudal systems, and slavery. Our beliefs were governed by these Monarchs, and our religious leaders who used persecution, intervening for God, and judging sinners, as a way to have power over the masses. This puritanical obsession with being cleansedof our sins during the Inquisition was about ridding ourselves of the “demons” that drove us to sin.
    Slavery was a part of such victimizing behavior. It dehumanizes a person through mental, emotional and physical abuse. The shame blame game punishes the innocent into feeling “less than”, hopeless, fearful, anxious, enraged and resentful. This victimization and abuse is passed down from generation to generation.
    My journey from victim to victory was about recovering my personal power, identity, voice, connecting to my inner self, and creating a positive image of my inner male and female. It was about becoming self-responsible, listening to my heart of hearts, recovering my self-respect and my innocence. And lastly it was about laying down the burden of suffering, setting boundaries, gaining understanding, and regaining my connection with Creator God. By staying in the now, I was able to let go of the sadness of the past, and the anxiety of the future. Now I am free to let love flow through me unimpeded, as much as I am able to. This is what the journey to wholeness was for me. At times I did not know if I would ever see a difference, but now I do, as my decisions are different now and my self-esteem has risen.
    For those “orphaned families” who have come up empty handed when looking for ancestors, I encourage you to keep trying. We all need positive role models. Look for them in your family, church and community. Perhaps there are some highly respected persons or families that would like to mentor a person or family, or become a surrogate ancestor. The only boundary that I would suggest is that the ancestor be a positive role model, that they are older and wiser, and that there are no legal or financial obligations whatsoever. I was not able to find anything on the internet about this topic other than genealogy. Perhaps someone could start such a process. Native Americans and Europeans might want to consider this, should they find themselves needing mentorship for themselves and their children. The internet would serve as a communication tool for keeping in contact. I truly believe that this is what the brotherhood of man looks like in action.
    C.J. May you continue on your path of healing, and someday when you least expect it, you will see your family doing better, and that the journey to wholeness was worth doing. The healing process leads to a place of fulfillment and rejoicing. The spirit of brotherhood and the light of humanity will always triumph over evil. Perhaps in time, a little seed of forgiveness will find a place to grow in your heart and I pray that it become a healing balm for you and your family. God Bless you! God bless you! And God bless you!
    P.S. Barbara of American Indian descent. I hear you speaking up for your people. Kudos to you! Everything I wrote about could be applied to your people’s suffering as well. I hope that tribes and people of every nation continue to pray for the spiritual evolution of this planet. Have you seen the pictures of the white buffalo? Angel blessings to you!

  • Liz O

    FOREIGNID: 16422
    I thought the documentary was pretty interesting, although a few things turned me off…mainly the oft-mentioned dinner table scene where one of the family members could not be convinced that his attending an Ivy league school could have been stymied had be been born into different circumstances. The cost of going to such a school is no slight matter, and short of a huge scholarship, there are a lot of smart kids out there who, due to their circumstances (and they don’t even have to be black to have this problem) would be unable to afford it. But classism is another issue.
    I do think the documentary did open up some things that could use more widespread discussion. I’m not so sure about reparations, but don’t get me wrong, I’m not one of those telling black people to “get over it.” Racism is alive and well in a multitude of forms, we would do best to confront the brand of racism that is occuring today, and devote more study to how different races and classes of our citizens found themselves in their current stations today, so as to help bridge inequalities.
    I don’t feel personally guilty for the transgressions of ancestors, but I do feel personal responsibility for how I treat and view others on a daily basis. And I do feel personal responsibility to educate myself about the plights of others and to treat everyone, regardless of race or class, with the same respect, despite any knee-jerk reactions my society may have ingrained within me during childhood.
    Studying genealogy, however, is a great way to tie yourself into the past, if you’re fortunate enough to have family with surviving records. I have ancestors who were slave owners, ancestors who were Native American, ancestors who were indentured servants, and ancestors who passed for white by calling themselves “Black Dutch.” Looking into the past can help us to realize how connected we really are.

  • Angela

    FOREIGNID: 16423
    Having thoroughly researched my ancestor’s past, I have a few fairly strong feelings about the documentary. First of all, to the DeWolf family and their descendants: please don’t ask me to participate in your collective guilt over your past wrongdoings. Move on, We all have much work to do to help citizens of every ilk in this country maximize their potential.
    My ancestors were far too poor to own slaves, or do much more than make a very paltry living. Could be they were also exploited by the likes of the DeWolfs, or some similar scions. After arriving nearly 400 years ago, the orginal immigrants of our family had to wait over three centuries for their very first descendant who would graduate from a college. I have no guilt.

  • muhammad abdullah

    FOREIGNID: 16424
    good morning, i just saw last night the powerful documentary ” traces of the trade ” by katrina browne.this one of the ways that people in america and the world need to be educated about when evsaluating the pligjt of africans in america.i began doing my genealogical research in 1976-77 after being given a copy of reader’s digest by ayesha and reading ” ebony ” magazine with acounts by alex haley tracing his roots back to kunta kinte who had been kidnapped in gambia,west africa and brought to annapolis,maryland in 1767.i have just received the probate records of thomas and sarah heath in 1772 from halifax,north carolina from their descendant randal heath.abraham heath had in his will of november 23,1807 a man issac,a woman dicey and a boy tillman.on the 1870 census of davis county,texas on page 64 is tillman dickerson.benjamin heath on 10 september,1838 in his will had charles and suckey his wife,fanny,julius caesar,miles and jack as his slaves.on the 1870 census of davis county,texas on page 64 is charles and sookie richardson and fanny cary and miles richardson and julius and his family.jack richardson is on page grandmother was mary richardson born 4-23-1900 in atlanta,texas in cass county and she was the daughter of john richardson and everline oliver.john richardson was born 2-2-1871 in douglassville,texas in cass county to miles richardson and fanny cary.on the 1880 census is william l.heath as he is on page 63 of the 1870 census of davis county,texas.miles richardson on the 1880 census is living next door to william l.heath.william l.heath is and his family are descendants of william m.heath born in 1682 in surrey county,virginia and died about 1745 in surrey county,virginia.he was the son of adam heath of charles county,virginia.adam heath was a descendant of sir robert heath born in 1575 in kent,england and died in 1649 in calais,france.sir robert heath was given land by king charles 1 which comprised of what is today north and south carolina.william m.heath has slaves according to his
    will of 1682 and i am trying to locate all of the slaves of the heath’s to verify my family roots back to africa

  • Alice Walker

    FOREIGNID: 16425
    I watched Traces of the Trade, and I would like to see all the monies made from this production go toward intercity schools and Ivy League scholarships for Blacks.
    Giving money is a sign of respect, so put your money where your mouth is…
    Also, sell the museum in Bristol and give the money for college scholarships to children of the slaves.

  • Jim Berg

    FOREIGNID: 16426
    How utterly predicable: northeastern liberal guilt…and OMG…my Harvard history class did not lead me to a complete history of slavery in the north. Refund?
    Since I am to feel guilty, then let me line up some other areas for which all Americans should apolgize:
    *for Ben Franklin being too harsh with his collaborator son and NJ Governor, and
    *for the prejudice against the immigrant Irish of the early 19th century, and
    *for the “white” carnage at Gettysburg fought to finally end slavery – all by a generation that did not import slavery (maybe you owe them some thanks), and
    *to the Germans, Russians, Jews who traveled here to seek a new life from slavery and butchery in the old world (my grandparents), and
    *for the injustice to the Japanese who (also have reinvented history removing Pearl Habor as a root casue of WWII) withstood the overly harsh ending to a war they started, and finally
    *for the Vietnamese who manned frail boats to escape tyranny to reach our shores, learn our language, encourage their children to be all they can be bybecoming top students, graduating from Harvard and learned a lesson from the experience: to look forward and not backward.
    Thhe producers of this show are so presumptous and conceited to think it is to their generation and they to do the fianl apology.
    How dare they be so utterly under-educated with “elite” degrees

  • markzimm

    FOREIGNID: 16427
    After watching the film, I don’t think that any of the DeWolfs are anywhere near as guilty as some of them think they are regarding slavery’s past and its evil legacy in America today.
    I say this because the claims of moral guilt presented and endorsed in the film were based exclusively upon the lumping of people into racial, ancestral, and national categories in a manner that precluded any consideration of any individual’s character and behavior. Such collectivist notions of guilt, or of innocence, for that matter, strike me as a recipe for disaster.
    Although I credit the DeWolfs, especially Katrina, for confronting historical injustices, the film also left me with the impression that some family members were so overwhelmed and personally devastated by their ancestors’ misdeeds and the suffering they caused that it clouded their judgment and left them unable either to place history in perspective or to assign the guilt where it belongs: to people who are long dead.
    As I watched the film it struck me that some family members had a deep-seated wish to be forgiven by a black person, any black person. I think that here, too, these DeWolfs erred. Despite the best intentions to wring a future right from a past wrong, nothing can change the fact that no DeWolf alive today had a hand in the slave trade. In criminal law—at least in a civilized society—people are not accountable for the misdeeds of family members, past or present. Why should matters of moral responsibility be any different?
    As for matters of apologies and reparations, my take is that the opportunity for doing so credibly was blown long ago. Acts of atonement should be undertaken while those directly involved are still alive, as when Reagan apologized to Japanese-Americans who’d been shipped to concentration camps, or when Clinton paid each of them $20,000 (a paltry sum, if you ask me).
    If the DeWolfs are guilty, who is innocent? And why stop at matters of slavery? Should every Jew be blamed for crucifying Jesus of Nazareth? Should every German alive one hundred years from now be lumped in with the National Socialists? And what about Muslims in post-9/11 America?
    We’ve already seen what happens when people are not treated as individual beings but instead are shoe-horned into ancestral, racial, national, or other categories that deny or downplay human uniqueness: slavery, the holocaust, Hiroshima, etc. Despite what I feel are the DeWolfs’ high moral intentions, I think that their emphasis on group identification as the basis for personal guilt is utterly mistaken and ought to be discredited as such. I would replace it by applying the universal principle of individual accountability for one’s deeds, and a commitment to confronting history and its relations to the present in a way that is more objective and less emotional.

  • Jane

    FOREIGNID: 16428
    I was fascinated by the documentary. I never knew about the involvement of the North in slavery. I felt a lot of pain from the Ghanians and African Americans in the film. This is a “holocaust” situation, not unlike what happened with the Jews in Nazi Germany, or the Native Americans with the advent of European settlers, or the current efforts at genocide in various parts of the world. Everyone should be heartsick at what these people (enslaved Africans) went through. Families were torn apart, never to be seen again; people were held captive against their will and treated like animals. There is a lot of grief and hurt on both sides–African American slave descendents and American slaver descendents. We must remember that every person is neither all good or all bad. We all have dark sides, even as we do good deeds (if you’ve been reading the news, you should be able to name a few). Human beings are complex. While we can all find blame with everyone involved in enslaving others (a practice that continues today with women and children), we can also observe that perhaps those people were also capable of good, such as making a living and supporting loved ones. I am NOT condoning their actions, I am pleading for a broader view and forgiveness. As long as we continue to hold others in contempt or hatred or judgement, we are ourselves captives. We form a link between ourselves and those whom we condemn. In this way, we are never allowed to progress beyond the hatred. We are never free. Therefore, I implore everyone to ask for help from your higher power, or just from the universe or from yourself, depending on your beliefs, for help to release this burden; to forgive all and state that they also forgive you. Break the ties that keep us in bondage to the past. This could be the beginning of huge changes in society if we could just get past the hatred, blame and holding of grudges. I know first hand how easy it is to hold onto hate against those who abuse you. It takes great strength and courage to be !
    to forgive the abusers; only then can we begin to heal. Perhaps then we can begin to call eachother “brother” and “sister” and really mean it.

  • Lorae McEuen

    FOREIGNID: 16429
    Last night I watched “Traces of the Trade.” It really touched me deeply because one of my ancestors was a slave-owner, even though his daughter married a man who fought for the north in the civil war. I do have a question that occured to me while watching this program. I wondered why the tribe in Ghana agreed to sell members of their clan for rum?

  • Anthony Lewis

    FOREIGNID: 16430
    “Traces of the trade” is, a great peice of work, That need’s to be seen by all american, and discussed. To help with the healing process of the SCARES of theTransalantic african slavery holacost expriences, for all parties involved in it’s undertaking, as it relate’s to the developement of our nation. In helping to make our nation a better one, for the rest of the world admire, and follow

  • Barbara Taylor Sanders

    FOREIGNID: 16431
    I have worked among the poor and disadvantaged for the past 30 years. I saw Katrina Browne’s film tonight. As a writer I’d like to produce a film on the plight of the single mother attempting overcome poverty and deal with being exploited by the male counterpart as live in boyfriend….also get into the head of these men and expose how they think and feel.

  • Anne Wortham

    FOREIGNID: 16432
    I just happened to turn to Traces of the Trade, and within a few seconds I was in a state of the deepest offense and outrage that one can imagine, as what I heard and saw were a group of self-righteous whites who represent everything I abhor and have fought against for over 40 years. This was the collectivistic, tribalistiic, paternalisitic, elitist mentality in all its refinement and cosmopolitanism. There they were talking about their white guilt for actions against ancestors of mine that they had no right to claim as their own. They had the gall to speak for people of European descent on behalf of people of African descent. They were ignorantly assuming that all would be well if they asked black Americans for forgiveness, and some even seriously suggested paying reparations (with the encouragement of an ignorant black “scholar,” Charles Ogletree). Katrina Browne is a troubled young woman who thinks that her problem is a problem for every American. She probably thinks she is a good person that only wants the best for everyone, when all I see is the worst kind of altruist and collectivist whose race consciousness and mysticism can only lead to the tyranny that such a lethal worldview has always led to. The woman has no capacity to recognize individuals as the autonomous and self-responsible beings they are. She would have all whites take on the role as slaveholders, and all blacks take on the role of slaves; then use the power of the state to impose on us all a “Truth and Reconciliation” orgy of redistribution of wealth, of responsibility, of productivity, and the final elimination of the the dignity of the individual that is the hope of Americans who fear and resent the demands of individual liberty. Miss Browne and all her kind should know that I, who happens to be of African, Scotch Irish and American Indian descent (i.e., a black American) will NEVER condone her dehumanizing scheme, and will fight it as strongly as I have for all these years. She has no right to think she knows!
    what th
    e “black community” thinks–not so long as there are blacks like me who are as certain as we are of anything that she and her black cohorts are wrong and dangerous. Who does she think she is, and why did PBS think there was any merit to this woman’s self-indulgence? Let it be known: I have absolutely no respect any contemporary white person who has conjured up some feeling of guilt for slavery, and I have no respect for any contemporary black person who thinks he or she is a slave, or who accuses all white people for the acts of particular whites, or who thinks “whitey” owes me. In this age of victimhood, these two groups of tribalists are the true enemies of black progress and sabotagers of the American ideal.
    Anne Wortham

  • A. Burkes

    FOREIGNID: 16433
    I watched the documentary on the Slave trade by Katrina Brown, I am African/ indian, with a mother and father who grew up in the south but eventually came up north, .Some one commented about why we are trying to do something about this now its been 200-300 years? Because those 200-300 years of history was taken from us, in the most evil, unforgiving way and you treat as if it were no big deal. All of America gained from our ancestors suffering , and we should just get over it.It is very hard to forget when America constantly reminds us through discrimination , the justice system, the education system, the government. We were still fighting for civil right in the 50′s, and in some areas to this day. This list could go on and on. How do you forget about something you are constantly reminded of. And to think this was done (slavery ) with the approval of the church. It’s very sad, we are always made responsible for what we do and have no choice but to face our truths, when will it be America’s turn to face theirs. How do you replace taking away someone’s lineage, who they were, taking them from their home. Alot of us may not have experienced these things, but we hear the stories from our elders who lived it, these stories still bring emotional scares for my elders.Who still feel helpless
    in their own skin. So if you can’t see that this was a horrific experience that has lasted generations then i guess ignorance is bliss.

  • Patty Lapihuska

    FOREIGNID: 16434
    I read Inheriting the Trade while taking a graduate level course in Multicultural counseling that ended last week. I Am grateful for Traces of the Trade efforts to connect with white Americans on this topic. I read in my genealogy that my ancestors owned slaves and passed these people and their issue on to the slave owners progeny.
    I would like a chance to keep this dialog open and ongoing so I don’t forget, can process my feelings, and listen to what blacks want from me and others.
    I do wonder how the Catholic Church as well as other Christian institutions were able to ignore or justify the buying and selling of humans when it was unlawfull. Institutionalized evil, corruption, and greed seem to be what America was built on rather than freedom.
    Will school books ever give real history lessons or will we always have the infantile 4th of July mentality prortrayed in the film as well as everywhere else in America?
    It’s not just about race, its about social justice.
    I want to get beyond the shame I feel. I want to stay engaged in this process.

  • cliff beacham

    FOREIGNID: 16435
    I am a professor of sociology and wondered when this documentary will be available for sale. It is a must for many of my classes.

  • Brenda Metro Detroit

    FOREIGNID: 16436
    Katrina ~
    It was very unusual watching something I had always wanted to see- but thought in the world of controlled media would never rise to the top.
    Thank you for this piece that your family so generously participated in. I am very hopeful the action you took with creating this film will move forward in the future and create a real healing within our cultures.
    A few months ago, I wondered what ever happened to all the families of wealth in this country that became so rich on the backs of slaves. Where did they go – Most people only know about the Trumps- Gates- & Warren Buffett, all of whom made their wealth long after the human tradegy of slavery.
    It is something that will be a sick feeling in the pit of all our stomach’s until we begin a dialog and move forward with action to correct the current ecomonic slavery that still controls this country.
    Of all the places wisdom can come from – the movie “Bullworth” – the real division in this country is not between the blacks and the whites – it is between the rich and the poor… and under this administration it is getting ever worse.
    Please do a follow up on this journey to the spirit you all took and let us all know the wisdom you continue to have unfold to you and the healing that it is creating in both communities. BRAVO

  • Rhonda

    FOREIGNID: 16437
    As a native Rhode Islander, I was aware that Rhode Islanders, especially the Brown family (of Brown University fame), were involved in the slave trade, but I did not know of the De Wolf family and was certainly not aware of the extent of the slave trade here. I am very familiar with many of the scenic vistas portrayed in the film – including the famous Bristol Parade, Linden Place and historic St. Michael’s church. Last year when starting a master’s degree in history, I read more about slavery and the slave trade than I would have ever done on my own. While in-class discussions were intellectual and factual, my heart ached from reviewing the extreme abusiveness of an institution that was so long-lasting and pervasive in early-American history. The question I asked myself over and over was, “How do we heal? How do we heal?” I observed with new eyes that, as a nation we are far from being healed of our tortuous past. As a white American whose ancestors arrived on these shores after the Civil War, I bear no direct legacy to slavery, and yet, as an American living in American society a hundred and fifty years later, I share the burden of the division of the races that still exists. If I strip away color and category and stop finger pointing and looking for where to hand the guilt, what is left today is a family torn apart by a legacy of torture and abuse. Our American family needs to heal from this atrocity. We carry in our hearts the pain and anguish of a shameful past. I agree with Katrina’s cousin who said, “I’m not looking to convert people who don’t understand this.” Let’s start with those who do understand, those who do want to heal, those who recognize a need to heal. The modern DeWolfs with their degrees from Harvard, Brown, Princeton and Yale have benefited from the prosperity of their ancestors. The “hoods” and the cultural of poverty that many black Americans still find themselves in are also remnants of the past. This message board seems to be creating a community of tho!
    se who a
    re touched and ready to be active in bringing healing to this issue. What’s next? Where do we go from here?

  • W. Noel Robbins

    FOREIGNID: 16438
    I’ve just watched an incredible journey. Descendants of one of the most powerful slave-trading families in the US subjected themselves the dark matter within their origins. I watched their experiences unravel their barriers to understanding. I saw the light of full-blown compassion start to glow in their eyes. I saw the pall of rugged and heavy shame age their poor faces as they witnessed the damage wrought from their family’s disgrace against fellow humans. As I watched, I was beset with mixed emotions. First, I felt the immediate and ever-present grief for my own ancestors, many of whom were snatched from their homelands, sold as property, and whose descendants were multi-generationally branded as less than human. As the story unfolded, I then recognized within myself the beginning of a relief of sorts. Out loud, I welcomed the nearly-mute Episcopalian fellowship to whom you spoke into the human family as conscious, responsible citizens. I felt the release from emotional and spiritual bondage that “whites” have grown to accept as readily and steadily as “blacks” have been conditioned to accept as their destiny. I honored and deeply appreciated your sincere efforts to touch and be touched by the heinous foundations of this nation in a form of slavery which serves, as one woman stated in the film, as “our own holocaust” (although, most of those ancestors who survived, did so AMONG their perpetrators). Simultaneously, I was staggered by the almost seamless transition into the higher, more pure reality of human existence where racism is no longer tolerated, and ‘race’ has no meaning beyond a descriptive word for a singular, wonderfully diverse, HUMAN FAMILY. This is the level of thinking that must be prevalent if we are to work toward completion of this stage of ideological, political, and societal evolution. Racism is founded upon the idea that there is, by definition, more than one human family; it is an poorly shaped idea that there are at least two types of people who, if mated, could not !
    e live and fruitful offspring. Like an infectious disease, racism as a concept permeates all that we do, see, and transmit to other nations. As a student of human diversity by way of culture, I’ve learned that race as a valid distinction among people is gravely unhealthy to the human spirit and inadvertently supportive of the very social demons we mean to exorcise from society such as inter-ethnic anger, rage, mistrust, and fear. Race as a social reality is borne directly from the idea that the ‘master’ must be separate in some measureable and universally recognized way from ‘servant’.
    A world where ‘race’ as a valid distinction among humans and where racism is tolerated will only be transformed when most of us understand that there is only one human race. Culture and ethnicity, like geography, climate, and language, are the only divisions which make sense; all of them are fluid differences which ultimately mean nothing compared to the solid gifts that we share because of human diversity: the fantastic multiplicity of potential solutions to the variety and severity of modern human problems. Thank you, Ms. Browne and company, for the blessing all of your efforts have yielded from the terror of this nation’s past. I want to let you know that, from the bottom of my heart, you have indeed done your ancestors proud. You and your team had the courage to go to this awesome nation’s great, dark, inner space and unlock the enormous reserves of love within the minds and hearts of those who heard and will hear you. Please know that the healing has begun in earnest. It’s been a long time coming…welcome home.
    W. Noel Robbins

  • Judith Culver

    FOREIGNID: 16439
    A powerful, sobering film. Thank you to all the family members who wrestled with the look backwards into an extradordinarily humbling family story. My family has lived in New England since the early 1600s, but I have few family tales since untold generations of my family were apparently ‘under the radar’ as simple tradesmen, civil servants or mill workers – plugging along in small NE towns, with birth, marriage and death notices only to mark their time on earth.
    In the end though, my generation has come to the same place as the current DeWolfe generation – using personal skills and character, passed from the previous generation, to give value to every day or personal contact.
    This film has made me query myself and my values – how will I behave if I someday learn that a family branch has engaged in longstanding behavior which knowingly and unfairly harmed others? I pray that I would come out at the end, of whatever journey I would need to then take, as the DeWolfe family voyagers have.

  • Ofosuah

    FOREIGNID: 16440
    We need to keep in mind that the Atlantic Slave Trade was the drug trade of it’s time, both driven by demand, both have English speaking soldiers warring to stamp it out and in both cases, the suppliers destroyed their communities. The Arab slave trade was crueler and it is ongoing. Slavery, slave trade and white supremacy are different things. There is a Ghanaian historian whose grandfather, a king arranging for his daughter to marry his trusted slave. This slave was in charge of the king’s treasury and with the way the laws of succession worked in this ethnic group, the children of the slave and the princess would get to be king before the historian!! This was not the case with white supremacy.
    I do hope European Americans would address why they need to feel superior by debasing themselves and embarrassing their children as a form of reparations. If it weren’t for white supremacy, the Atlantic Slave Trade wouldn’t be such a sore topic. Slavery/servitude of some kind was practically universal and when we look at our student loan system here in this country, why it sounds like indentured servitude!! When reading Miller & Kanazawa’s evolutionary psychology book, ‘Why do beautiful people …’ it occurred to me that maybe one reason why Europeans and other races needed to oppress Africans is because on the surface, broadly speaking, many African men, whether they are Atlantic African or Motherland African, come with a Paul Robeson effect – masculine presence, physique and voice. They look fit and are fit. They look like Alpha males that ‘2nd class men’ would want to bring down by robbing them of their dignity. I do not know what it does to the psyche of European Americans to know that deep down they were not fit enough for hard work. Perhaps, European Americans need to find positive ways to deal with the fact that they were not fit enough to till the land and men who need to rape are usually ‘second class’ men according to evolutionary psychology and there are several obvious descendants of such rapists today. I have a friend who is a school social worker (European-American) in a school with only 3 black students and many more East Asian students and the rest European American. Even though he was only in 2nd grade, the little black boy was being picked on and my friend was puzzled because it wasn’t about his personality. We were both worried because his responses could affect how he deals with white male authority figures in the future either by tuning out in class or being aggressive. I would hope European Americans could address these maladaptive aspects of white supremacy in their culture as a way of reparations. I will not blow you off if you want to apologize but I will NOT demand apologies. When you demand apologies you give your power away. For us Africans, my stance to keeping our dignity is ‘we are warriors, keep your apologies’.

  • Angela

    FOREIGNID: 16441
    Families like the DeWolfs live in what I’ll call a “cycle of affluence.” They get “in” and get “out” of the wealth cycle early. They are into business deals, real estate, investment markets at the first flush, just before the heat is turned up. Likewise, they are among the first ones to get out.
    Their education, seed money, connections, and insider information are what define the real chasm in our society today…not black v. white. Now they have chosen the role of harbinger of black reparations. They have used their intimate understanding of “how things work” to make this documentary film. Why?
    The point is to control the dialog. Because if you can control the dialog, you can define the solution. The core of the solution seems to be two-fold. It includes pressuring still-viable corporations who have roots in 19th century industry. The pressure is also to include the public and its politicians eager to win hearts and votes. This will ultimately evolve into bills in front of legislature for reparations.
    The family has leveraged a solution for their guilt and shame for virtually no money down, and in doing so bet that someone else will pay for the solution. The film, after all, was made with Mass Humanities and (NEH), read government, money. Not DeWolf or Browne Family Trust money. Why not just quietly establish a foundation with their own money to help young blacks through college, or to foster black entrepreneurship? Why not indeed?
    The point is to exorcise their personal demons at another’s expense. They have entered the forefront of a movement, in order to reap the desired reward. They will be the first ones out of the game, but not before they accept the thanks and accolades posted here. In the end, no real pain or sacrifice is necessary on their part.

  • Werner Hertz

    FOREIGNID: 16442
    This documentary is the most honest creation of our truely honest real history of our besirched nations violent creation and the greed and evils that combined with the genocide and land stealing from our native people ctreated the wealth that has created circumstances that are our special heritage that has made us so
    attractive to the multiple immigrants to our nation. It was the wealth
    created by slavery and native land robbing that made possible
    our industrial revolution and financial wealth which provided the massive employment opportunities for all future immigrants and provided the priviledged opportunities for all European immigrants
    who have become U.S. residents fom the Pilgrims to the present.
    It also created the world wide present commercial domination and our war created world wide domination and our war created wealth from robbing the worlds people of theirwealth which is now coming to an end with our earth rebelling to our constant abuses which is now coming to a very dangerous end game that
    threatens the very existance of human life on earth.
    I most heartily congratulate all participants of this powerful
    documentary and hope others will follow that are as honest about
    our real history. I have been urging all cable members I meet to access it and urge all to pass the information. I also wish that every school student were shown it and urge having free copies
    donate to every middle and high school class to compensate for the massive denial that is now disbursed in our so called public education system. CONGRATULATIONs

  • celeste

    FOREIGNID: 16443
    Racism is a problem around the world today. Genocides occurring in Darfar, Rhwanda, Cambodia, Afghanistan and more- have all occurred after World War II, when people across the globe promised “never again”. When we look at these countries, as well as though who maintain attitudes of racism (no matter against which race here in America), we do tend to see trends or issues facing these people that are universal and breed racism. I believe there is a need to address where racism is born, not just its final outcome.
    If a person looks at these societies and why racism took hold to begin with, we see a society overwhelmed by poverty, often contrasted with a privileged group with in the same cultural or societal context. Poverty, class cultures, and other issues of need vs. greed are at the core of racism. When primary needs such as food, health care, housing and education are met for a select group rather than the whole society the tendency toward racism takes further hold.
    I hope I can learn from individuals who can show me more explicitly what the experience is for African Americans in this culture. While I definitely hear about racism now, I do not often see it except on shows on television that are either about the socio-economically disadvantaged, or are geared toward those same individuals.
    I am trying to relate to this program in all it’s aspects without any predisposed conceptions. I did not grow up with any financial privelege due to my race. I have been homeless a number of times in my life, and have lived in fields, pipes, cars and doorways at times. I have had my financial status or social status and lack thereof held against me at times, in all forms of law enforcement as well as the legal system.
    I can not possibly deny that racism exists in our culture, or even that our government (*especially recently!*) has actively participated in racist activities for political gain. I also know that racism by any group or individual against another group or individual does not solve the problem but rather expands it. In the same way that violence only breeds more violence, I believe reverse discrimination only breeds more racism. I have personally seen many people that did not grow up in a racist belief system, but grew to hold racist beliefs due to those who felt they were discriminated against in the past, holding revenge or racist beliefs themselves. I do not think there is a completely true statement that is universal about any race. “All” whites can not be described in any one way, just as “All” blacks, jews, hispanics, men, women, or indians (or any other group) can be described in any one way. I give credence to the individuality of every person.
    I do get very frustrated, by the assumed guilt of all caucasians simply due to MY race. There seems to be a desire for ALL caucasians to “pay” for the “sins of the past”. I DO find it difficult to say that I owe anyone for attitudes I do not now, and have never believed in. Or that I might owe for decisions made by those who lived a hundred or more years ago. I have not benefitted from the “slave trade”, my own ancestors were poor farmers who did not have the status to own slaves or were more recent immigrants from poor countries across the globe. Certainly my ancestors and family had no wealth to hand down to their children over time and none have had a life of any privelege.
    I had no ability to go to college, except through scholarships, and while I earned close to a full ride at any college in the country, I graduated high school so early that without parental signatures those scholarships were immediately lost and the possibility of ANY federal, state, local or private financial aide was denied to me. Without the possibility of financial aide I had no chance to attend college.
    I do understand however, that I was raised in a Midwest, small town. While that background provided me with a belief that ALL people are equal regardless of race, sex, religion, or other disability- I DID have the chance to graduate from high school, a simple right denied to so many African Americans, or other immigrants and races. Due to the ingrained cultural and social systems, many African Americans can not even hope for that chance.
    I can only question how my race has affected my ability to get work, and it is a question I will probably never know the answer to. People are in general not open about their racist beliefs. IF I had an “edge” due to my race (beyond simple location), I am not aware of it, and I have no way to be aware of it. On this I need help getting educated. The only way for me to get educated is by meeting African Americans who are willing to talk with me about their personal experiences with racism. A forum to do that would be of great interest to me.
    I totally recognize that our government has continued to be racist in it’s military operations, and has counted on cultures that have less financial wealth and influence to “pay” the greatest price for our country in war and military service.
    I have been frustrated by African Americans that have (both during my career and after), told me that I “owe” them. That I “owe” them a place to live, or I “owe them” the benefits that everyone else is working for (including caucasians). Please be aware, I am not talking about the social net of welfare, or housing, or other government programs, as that is the only way I have survived the trials of my own life. It is however, a hard concept for me to grasp that I “owe” for decisions that I did not make, actions I did not take, and benefits that I have not received.
    I will say, that perhaps I am blind, or simply unknowing about ways that I have benefitted. I look at this film, and the scene at the dining table where the entire family went to Ivy League colleges, and I have to wonder what percentage of African Americans can duplicate that scene. (I wonder how many caucasians can either?) I could not duplicate it, nor could most of the friends I have had. However, I was blessed to grow up in a small town in the middle of no-where, where neighbors must depend on each other to survive, and where the ignorance of past generations, or societal norms are not the same norms as experienced in large cities across this country.
    I do live in a major city now, and I do wonder how little I know of African American culture within my own city and country. I do believe it is vital for the American Government to take responsibility for any action or in-action that supported slavery in the past or racism in our world today. (I am big on personal responsibility over-all).
    Most importantly, I have to wonder when the past will become the past for all of us.
    I know that we are all a product of our experiences, and perhaps the experiences of those who touch our lives. However, I must hold out hope that this will only expand our ability to understand and overcome these issues, rather than hold us hostage to a history of inequality, mistakes and anger without forgiveness and progress.

  • lynne

    FOREIGNID: 16444
    Poor Mary Mura clearly you know very little history of America. At the turn of the century laws were enacted to entice eastern Europeans your Croatian relatives to come to America to the detriment of newly freed slaves. Those incentives were to counterbalance the growing black population, which had become a considerable part of the American workforce. Your ancestors that came through Ellis Island maynot have benefited as slave owners but they did benefit as immigrants by the color of their skiin. Maybe you should learn more about history and American Immigration law!You may use HTML tags for style and links.

  • Margo Guertin

    FOREIGNID: 16445
    Thanks to Katrina, Tom, and my other 8 cousins for educating us all on a shameful part of American history. And thanks also to the ABC network for bringing to our attention child slavery in the world today, and some of the successful efforts to combat it. I’m thinking particularly of the work of retired lawyer Olga Murray in Nepal:
    While we cannot change the past, her example shows that there is much that we can do, EACH of us, to help eliminate slavery in the world today.

  • James DeWolf Perry

    FOREIGNID: 16446
    While I won’t try to comment on everything that’s been written here in the last week, I do want to offer a few responses, as a family member, to direct questions and other issues that have been raised.
    Alice, you ask that the profits from the film go to inner city schools and Ivy League scholarships. You’ll be pleased to know that Katrina, the director, has pledged that any profits will be donated to appropriate causes, and education is high on our list of priorities.
    Jim, the issue of historical amnesia isn’t whether Harvard, or other elite institutions, teach the history of slavery in the north. They do. It’s that most Americans do not learn this history in school, and it is not acknowledged in our popular images of slavery. Tom DeWolf makes the point in the film that he never knew this history, as he explains in more detail in his book, Inheriting the Trade. We have researched public school curricula and surveyed teachers at conferences, and we have confirmed that most students even today are not learning these basic facts about the nation’s history.
    Mark Zimm, it was actually Republican presidents (Reagan and George H.W. Bush), not Clinton, who signed the legislation authorizing reparations payments of $20,000 for the internment of Japanese-Americans in U.S. concentration camps during WWII. While that may seem like a paltry sum, it amounted to $1.6 billion in total.
    Most importantly for the present discussion, these reparations were offered by the U.S. to the Japanese-American survivors and, when deceased, to their descendants. The payments were not limited only to the surviving victims.
    Lorae, you ask why African tribes would agree to “sell members of their clan for rum.” In fact, while Africa had been exporting slaves for centuries before Europeans became involved, Africans rarely sold members of their own societies into slavery. Generally, those enslaved were members of other societies, acquired through warfare or raids. Meanwhile, the slave trade was enormously profitable to coastal African communities. Rum was merely one valuable commodity used in the trade; guns and a wide range of other manufactured goods, for instance, were also highly valued.
    Angela, you’ve posted your comments elsewhere, and I’ve responded in detail. I’ll just make one clarification here, for the benefit of anyone following the conversation on this page.
    The modern DeWolf family is not wealthy, and could not establish the foundation you call for, even if we agreed that was appropriate. We are a diverse and widespread group of fairly ordinary Americans, despite the fact that those who were invited to participate in the journey, and who were willing and able to accept the invitation, were necessarily not representative of the entire family (being committed to digging up and discussing this history, available to commit several weeks to the process and, in some cases, able to afford to travel at their own expense).

  • Umar Ndanusa

    FOREIGNID: 16447
    As an African male, i wanted to Commend the family members who embarked on this journey of uncovering the truth about their family’s slave trade legacy. One thing that I have learned from my Religion (Islam) is that “No soul shall bear the sins of burden of another”. So I don’t think that all white people should be rounded up and punished for what their ancestors did. But the fact still remains that the consequences of their ancestors actions are still affecting both African and African-Americans alike. God made different so that we can “know each other”. in other words to discover each others cultures and our diversity. Imagine how boring life would be if we all spoke the same language and had the exact same culture ans skin color. this is an amazing gift from God. But instead humans use these differences to divide ourselves and discriminate against each other. to truly get healing, we have to change what is in ourselves and start acting towards each other with true justice and equality.

  • Ken

    FOREIGNID: 16448
    Interesting show.
    My comments:
    Although full apologies and reparations to the African American Community are entirely appropriate and long overdue, we should (as a nation) make true amends with the Native Americans Population. They were the first here and their needs should come first. After all, were it not for the English and then the Americans “appropriating” land from Native Americans, towns such as Bristol, RI; Savannah, GA; Chicago IL; Seattle, WA; San Francisco, CA; and countless others, would never have been founded. That former slaves and their descendants would benefit from property seized from Native Americans needs to be addressed as well.

  • Cathy Zipperian

    FOREIGNID: 16449
    i am both amazed and impressed by each member of this family. What a challenge to take on. Searching for and being willing to accept the reality of one’s heritage can certainly lead to healing for today and prevention of gernerational repetitions. Thank you for your courage and vulnerability. I truly hope you heal yourselves, your children and your children’s children… The ripple effect will surely impact the world.

  • charles lee

    FOREIGNID: 16450
    slavery was wrong for the children of isreal and God made it right by sending them back home .the only way america can make true reparation is send anyone with african blood back home to the jungle.they should start by empting out our prisons put the blacks in charge and make savles of the white inmates. when anyone black white or cream gets conficted of a crime

  • Maggie

    FOREIGNID: 16451
    Racism is a problem for all of us. Reading White Like Me opened my eyes that all I thought I had “earned” was given to me because I’m white and middle class. Reading Ruby Payne’s book showed me that there are 3 classes in our country, and that perhaps the poor don’t want to be middle class any more than I want to join Martha Stewart’s country club. Seeing that my point of view is not Truth for everyone else, heck, it’s not even truth for me once I start thinking more deeply. I had recorded this show on my DVR, and coincidentally also recorded a show Afropop, Ten Days in Africa, where a group of 50 African-Americans travel to Africa and encounter some of the same uncomfortable situations as in Traces of the Trade. They felt a separation from the people they met, because they were seen as wealthy Americans, nice clothes on their backs aiming their expensive cameras at the Africans. When they met with some elders, one man commented that the Africans didn’t seem to be as upset about colonialism as the Americans were about slavery, but the irony was that this group of Americans didn’t seem disadvantaged to their hosts. They had the money to travel to Africa, but the Africans didn’t have money to visit the U.S. Not the kind of relationship they had envisioned. I recommend watching both shows consecutively to see that none of these issues are simple, for either race. My vision would be for the government to pour vast amounts of money into the inner city schools, which are disproportionately African-American, to give the next generation a shot at the same advantages we whites have always had. We have to stop fooling ourselves into thinking that everything we have was earned fair and square by our own efforts alone. And the reparations would be to create a society where the playing field is more level than it is now, in any way we can.

  • Dorothy

    FOREIGNID: 16452
    Traces of the Trade: I lived as a child on a Southern plantation for 6 months out of the year. We grew Pine Trees for the government. My family went to the “Slave Markets” during the time the plantation grew cotton and vegetables. The “Slave Market” wasn’t just full of Africans, but Poor Whites, Hispanics – all races who were either sold to the market or could not pay their debts. Our family bought children and adults to work on the plantation. They were given good clean places to live and food to eat. The younger folks were taught. After a period of 5-7 years they were given freedom to go off the plantation or stay and continue to help and possibly build a home. Now just down the way from our home was another plantation. Only this one was own by an African whose plantation was to sell and grow “Slaves”. We found it despicable and when the Emancipation was declared he was run out. Most of the Africans on our land told stories of Africa and how they were captured by rival African tribes or worse how their whole families were wiped out and at some point they were sold by these rival African tribes to the White and European Sailors on the Coast. Emancipation came to the Plantation and we began growing Pine Trees. Most of our folks moved to the area surrounding the land we were own. Some not all went North and came back within several weeks complaining of the racism and bigotry of the North. I feel the whole “Bad White Southerners
    Ideal” has gotten way out hand. The North had Slaves. Everywhere you go there our still those with small minds and bigotry. I think History should be written truthfully and we should learn from the mistakes our ancestors made not make them worse by violence and accusations.

  • Bettie Julkes

    FOREIGNID: 16453
    I just had the opportunity to watch this program tonight. I was sincerely moved by this film. I thought it would never occur in this country that a white family was willing to go deep inside themselves and examine the legacy of slavery in this country. Kudos and thank you. As I write I am exhaling and hopeful for the future. I was recently at a fourth of July gathering and was asked why I didn’t have on any red, white, or blue. I said, “until this country treats me as a full fledged American with all the rights and privileges afforded to white Americans, I don’t feel like wearing red, white, or blue. Your film brought me hope that one day I can proudly celebrate July 4th holiday.
    Thank you so much for your courage.

  • Cheryl

    FOREIGNID: 16454
    I believe that Katrina Browne and her relatives are sincerely good people. The documentary is moving at times, but ultimately it doesn’t say anything very deep. I was especially annoyed at the discussion in which one of them said he got to Harvard by his own hard work, not because of any privilege & that he would have gotten in if he were raised in any environment. Excuse me, but that is a very ignorant statement.
    A much more informative and eye-opening documentary about slavery is the PBS 4-part series “Slavery and the Making of America”. It showed much better the role that the North and the so-called Christians played in the slave trade. Especially effective are the various writings by slaves of the time, and the intertwining of the role of slavery with the rest of US history that we learn in school. It presents the complexities of events that I had never thought about. I believe this series should be shown & discussed in every US social studies classroom.

  • Leah

    FOREIGNID: 16455
    Very compelling documentary and I am glad to see that some whites have a conscious on how their privledge came to be in America. For much too long, we have hidden behind laws, rhetoric, religion and other false lies to cover up what we don’t want to admit. Race relations in America paint a picture of the seperatism we all have within our souls. To talk about the past does not mean bringing up anger and regret, but to understand how we came to be, as an American nation and the World. As an African American, I would love to be able to look beyond a grandparent and know who my ancesters were. Without knowing your past, you don’t know where you’re going in the future. I agree that reparations will do no good. It will go as quickly as economic stimulas checks. For those who feel their wealth has been derived based upon slavery, and autracities by other minorites in the World, use the money to develop communities, bring pride back to a people, allow them to link to their history. Once a person has a sense of pride and history, they are equipped with the tools to work towards a better future.

  • jerry rubin

    FOREIGNID: 16456
    I recently received a signed copy of the book due to a comment I made. I do not remember what I wrote, but I thank you for the book. After watching your program on POV, I also saw an interview by Bill Moyers regarding another more devastating chapter of Black-American history. The name of the book is “Slavery by Another Name” by Douglas A. Blackmon. A caucasian who works for the Washington Post. The purpose of this comment is not about his book, but rather possibly another perspective that might not have been asked. It has been shown true of the history that your family played in the slave trade, but I wonder about the mirror aspect. In other words, how did they, the DeWolf family, get these black Africans? They did not have a white crew to find and enslave them! They probably purchased them from others for goods and/or spirits. Who was in Africa that enslaved them originally for your family to buy them? Excuse the possible inappropriate parallel, but is it good that needs evil. Are the two not parallels/reflections in a mirror. Is your past only on one side of the mirror? Surely I do not accept what had been condoned, but I ask how does the other side of the mirror feel about the events?

  • Sarah M

    FOREIGNID: 16457
    This was a very interesting program. While I agree that we need to study history to avoid repeating mistakes in the future, I also feel that we need to take what we have learned and use it to move forward. Both the DeWolf descendants and anyone looking for reparations for what happened over 150 years ago are misguided. Slavery is still happening all over the world today. If you are white and feel bad about pre-Civl War slavery, do something to help stamp out slavery in our world today. If you are black and are still upset about what happened to your ancestors, do the same and work to end slavery in our world today or you are just as bad as the free Northerner who did not own slaves but did nothing about it.
    We can look back at the people who lived before the Civil War and divide it into four basic groups: 1) slaves 2) slave owners 3) free people who did nothing to stop slavery and 4) abolitionists. Now ask yourselves what these people should have done or may have felt.
    Slaves, no doubt, wanted someone to stand up and help them achieve freedom.
    Slave owners should have realized what they were doing was immoral and released their slaves.
    Free people who did nothing about slavery should have stood up and made their voices heard to bring about an earlier end to slavery.
    Abolitionists – this group was actually doing something about slavery in their time.
    We have to live in the present and not the past. All the people who are living in the past by feeling guilt over having contributed to/participating in slavery and those slave descendants who want reparations need to look at our world today to offer the healing they need. Both of these groups need to work to do something to end slavery that still exists in our world today, much as the abolitionists who ran the Underground Railroad did in the 1800s.
    Find out how you can help people enslaved today by going to the Anti-Slavery International website:
    While it was admirable that this family faced such an ugly past, could they instead have used some of the money they spent on this project to end slavery today? I hope they read this and decide that this is the step they need to take for their own healing and to help people who are alive and suffering under slavery this very minute.

  • bryce

    FOREIGNID: 16458
    Will this film be shown again? I missed the screening.

  • Dale Shirley

    FOREIGNID: 16459
    Slavery in any form is reprehensible. It was a dark chapter in American/world history. However, there is no reparation, no payment, no gift that can repair this wrong. Anyone who looks in their family history and finds notorious relatives and feels guilt is being silly. Feel guilt over that which you have control over. Handicapping yourself over something that happened hundreds of years ago is simply misguided guilt.
    I live in Georgia. I have been told all of my life what a bad person I am because my ancestors owned slaves (don’t really know if they did or not). Usually this came from educated people in the “sanitary North.” It is interesting to see documentation that the “sanitary North” was not quite so sanitary. It is quite possible that some of the DeWolf family traded slaves during the week and attended abolitionist meetings on the weekends.
    If you want to hand out apologies to the descendants of slaves, fine. But, don’t try to cast your guilt on me. It would be a little much to be derided by the North one day and then have to carry your burden the next.
    I have always treated people as I would like to be treated. But, I cannot and will not attempt to offer an apology for the actions of others occurring a hundred years before my birth. To do so is folly.

  • Tab Walton

    FOREIGNID: 16460
    Just found out about your story. I think the idea of talking about it is the most important thing our society can do. It’s not only about what some of the society has done to blacks, but what blacks have learned from the experience. I have found that crucial in understanding myself and what roll I have in the society we live in.
    lPlease……let me know when and where I can see your film and any other discussions available. I cammend you on taking the resposibility to bring this to light. ( the healing has begun)

  • Linda

    FOREIGNID: 16461
    This was a very interesting film. I’m sure the family is sincere and heartfelt, but unfortunately it served to illustrate very clearly the disparity between not blacks and whites but between the elite of both races and the common citizen. When the question was asked by the young black child, “do you feel superior to me?” , my answer would have been, ” Well, sometimes I do, but when I see your beautiful brown skin and your white teeth, and when I hear how intelligently you speak in my language when I can’t speak yours, then I feel inferior to you.” Then I would ask does he feel superior to me. Many blacks do feel superior to whites, you know. And that is true equality. That is the opposite of racism. Making judgements and discriminating is deeply ingrained in our DNA. It is a part of our very survival mechanism. It is the common experience in humanity that we are able to percieve difference and act upon it. The victim mentality that permeates our culture is what devides us the most. As long as we’re talking about reparations and white guilt, we will be afraid of and angry at one another.

  • Linda

    FOREIGNID: 16462
    Please…one more comment. Perhaps someone could do a documentary on the life of ‘Dorothy’…July 17 comment. She spent time on a plantation in the South growing pine trees for the government. I found her story fascinating and would love to hear more!

  • Sky Lark

    FOREIGNID: 16463
    I am a Black Man, African American born and raised here in the U.S.A. I know for a fact that this film should have been funded by the many tax dollars that some have complained about going to some very insipid other choices. There should also have been inkind funding from the very families who initially profited from the atrocity of Slavery in America. Even the De Wolfe family themselves should further guilt laden from any experience in their own undertaking. They should have invited Black film crew and historians. The amount of Pain and suffering that has gone on to innocent people at the behest of this and other families making profit… and they have the audacity to make a film that costs more for sale that a multimilliondollar hollywood blockbuster is not even laughable it is pathetic and i hope when there is truly a person who is conscious, compassionate and has chutzpah they will take an ethical course instead. Al Gore and his little slide show and the De Wolves and their art project need to go off into obscurity. they will have nothing to do with the change of humanity. You ever hear of fourty acres and a mule…. Well they can come kiss my mule.
    A Brother from This Planet, Google me Baby!

  • Eldon

    FOREIGNID: 16464
    I just watched this recently, and it really is telling, not just about RI’s history as a slave trading state, which I know about, but about the repercussions and resonances of the infamous Triangle Trade on and in American History, and just how the wealth of the so-called Industrial North was based on the backs of black slaves – even after the Civil War. Think about that, those of you who reject “responsibility.”
    This “family film” really resonated with me, despite some of its religiosity. as a descendant of the “Cole” family, another old Rhode Island agrarian bulwark – not nearly as rich as the D’Wolfe family, or at least not my branch, but just as deeply tainted by the TT. For a long time I had forgotten that my great-aunts’ and uncle’s (b. in the 1800s) had a big black draft horse, I rode on as a child, which we all called N—–, their recounting of how their g-parents had house “boys” when they read me “Little Black Sambo” (the original 1899 edition), and just where my advantage came from, even though my Mother was the first generation that went to college – Pembroke, the Womens’ College at Brown University, another legacy of the Triange Trade, of which I am an alumnus. It was quite an eye-opener, and should be seen by everyone who hides in the “it didn’t happen on my watch.” cant. This is obviously still weighing on me a lot. Thank you for making this film.

  • Anita Martin-Schwartz

    FOREIGNID: 16465
    Wow! Thank you Katrina and Family!
    Thanks to your documentary, I can now feel like I wasn’t the cause of the slave trade..I live in the South & the slaves were imported here to pick cotton among other things. I have always had deep symphany for those enslaved & their descendants. I wish it had never happened, but then I would have never met the African-American love of my life. ~Anita

  • Anita Martin-Schwartz

    FOREIGNID: 16466
    i want to buy a copy of Katrina Browne’s POV, tell me how?

  • Warren Clark

    FOREIGNID: 16467
    F.Y.I, the transatlantic slave traders (obviously totally inexcusable) in that time period didn’t go into West Africa in the manner of Genghis Kahn. They went there as business men. Guess who they were dealing with? Not other whites. Why is this fact, it seems, never brought up? Why doesn’t anyone mention the fact we have the republicans to thank for the abolition clause written into the U.S. Constitution. How about the whole complete truth? Respectfully,
    Warren Clark

  • C. A Hayes

    FOREIGNID: 16468
    You may use HTML tags for style and links. This was a very sad chapter in the history of man–slavery. Thank God it is over with much sadness in the fact that so many died during the Civil War that signified the end of slavery in this Nation. We are all Americans and have to recognize that the people alive now are not willing and have not participated in the practice of slavery. We cannot forget that black tribes in the Nation of Africa sold the slaves. If any slave traders are to be charged of a crime or reparation then all would be guilty. The dominant black tribes who were also guilty of murder would be facing criminal charges. How could something like that bring about a healing? Slavery is over and all are guilty of different forms of prejudice and we have all experienced prejudicial treatment. All men are created equal but are not always treated that way.

  • Neicey in Ohio

    FOREIGNID: 16469
    Glad to say it again The White House will win….lookie here President Obama.

  • orlando littlejohn

    FOREIGNID: 16470
    I saw this program on January 27, 2009. Needless to say we have an African American President, which is so refreshing. I have said for years that White People need to deal with their past. That being said I always encounter people who say it was not me I don’t owe anyone anything, but to the contrary, we all bare the psychological scars from the slave trade through our history together in America. As much as White People try to disconnect themselves from this reality that is the attitude that makes it worse for African Americans. We feel the whip of our ancestors across our back, we feel our grandmothers being raped by white men, we feel all the tears of a black man seeing a white baby come out of the womb of his wife. The connection breaks for white people because of shame. The shame of treating humans worse than animals. The connection reinforces when after slavery we go through the Jim Crow era not to mention a war being fought to keep slavery going, The south felt so strong about that that it killed so many of its young white men to keep men enslaved. The big slap in the face from White America is the compassion it has for the suffering of other people around the world, especially World War II and the Jews. How can you say Hitler is bad and treated the Jews so horrible when you treat your African Americans worse and the same. How do you give reparations to the Japanese when you treat your own like trash. Thats the complicity that those who say it was not me carry, your psychological damage is your privilege and your complicity that has been handed down directly from slavery. Of course there was John Brown and his sons and Millions of White People who choose to forgo their privilege for the title Nigger Lover amongst their peers. It takes courage and thats a hard pill to swallow for most whites, but think about what of the courage of African Descendants lasting all this time through everything White America had and still has to offer. We have developed a strength rival to none other as a people and it seems white people have developed a convenient cowardice to not act or comply. Just sitting here I am reminded of all the racial names and things I have had happen to me in this lifetime. All and all it has made me strong and surprisingly not hateful. I come from the slave holding Littlejohn family out of Spartanburg, SC, The same ones who donated to Clemson their arena and the same SC that produced Strom Thurman and his campaign to keep his foot on the neck of blacks while raping his family maid, I personally feel that we all need healing, from the African Chiefs who sold us and destroyed the foundation of their Continent, the White slave merchants who after they got us destroyed us mentally and physically, their offspring who conspired to maintain
    their self imposed superiority complex on us to this day and Us African Americans who are so damaged with an inferiority complex that we cant get ourselves together and act out against ourselves and whites, and the African Americans of us who have just simply emulated our oppressors. I like what James Baldwin said about the matter that America because of the race problems have done nothing more than damaged itself as a strong country of morals and ideals. We need to talk about it all, as messy as it gets, I have no anger because who do you blame when we all have to keep living together, no one you just move on to the next step in the process until we both come together as equal Americans. I think reparations should be free education on the college level for those African Americans who attain to that level. We have to be a Unified America, Hopefully the President is a move toward that direction because we all know Clerance Thomas set everything Thurgoode did back at least 200 years. Peace to America not Black or White but America

  • Jesse

    FOREIGNID: 16471
    I watched this two times. I didn’t like it for several reasons. I agree with other comments that it was mediocre – with boring commentary. These white people were so elitist i could not identify with them. I am older and white and grew up dirt poor, and i mean dirt poor. I worked very hard. Now i just lost most of my savings due to the mismanaged stock market and economy. People like the DeWolf’s probably found my money, since wealth is never lost, only transferred. The super wealthy like the Harvard crowd and industrialists may owe apologies – to everyone else who has been getting ripped off for generations. Example, The Federal Reserve Bank is just a big private hosing station to reduce non-elitists to rubble – black and white, makes no difference. I am once again near broke and i have NOTHING to give to anyone of any color. This is a terrible time to be showing this film when NO ONE can afford reparation – not privately and not from taxes!!! I cannot believe we are talking about making amends NOW – do you want to totally obliterate the ‘white class’ now, is that it? Would that soothe the guilt trip of the rich privileged racists? This film was a very personal cringy journey into one family that has a big guilt trip. Very self-serving, mostly irrelevant to struggling whites. Hey, wouldn’t i love to get money from the communists that ran my grandparents out of town??? Besides, blacks have a black President now, so that should go a long way to wash away slavery – haven’t they come full circle now???
    CHECK OUT – Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson – he is a black man who agrees with me, and he says, “White people, i give you permission to be angry at black people” (for not making men stay and raise their kids) He says, (paraphrased) “Black folk need to understand, WHITE FOLK HAVE NOTHING MORE TO GIVE!” – you got that right.
    Frankly, i think working whites have given a lot of tax dollars to inner city projects and welfare and so on. I gave at the office. I’M DONE now and i am looking out for number one – because NO ONE ELSE WILL LOOK AFTER ME – I AM JUST A OLD WHITE BAG who lost MOST of her savings – while the insiders protected themselves and LIED THRU THE MEDIA. This movie felt like another big lie to me. I give it a D minus.

  • Vera

    FOREIGNID: 16472
    Wow! When I first viewed the jaw-dropping “Traces of the Trade,” on PBS’ POV, my first knee-jerk reaction was: “why hasn’t someone like Oprah jumped on this and invited Katrina Browne and her relatives on her show for broader coverage of something so ground-breaking, powerful and significant?” I think I will e-mail Oprah asking her that very thing, and whether or not she’s viewed this remarkable POV presentation.
    Secondly, I want to applaud the courageous Katrina Browne and her relatives for the incredibly brave step they took by examining something so atrocious. White, black, red or yellow, it’s not easy volunteering to be lowered into a snake pit . As a black American woman, I have the utmost respect for Ms. Browne.
    Many people wonder, what can we do to dismantle the huge white elephant that is race relations and getting whites and blacks to start up a dialogue about healing, guilt, etc.? I say this POV documentary is a huge step in the right direction.
    And lastly, I’m personally not interested in an apology or reparations. Paying us off or saying “I’m sorry” for slavery doesn’t even begin to cut it when you think of the magnitude of the injustice slavery has left it’s debilitating stamp it has left on black Americans. You know how whites can began to make amends? 1) Stop the systematic racial discrimination that is going on to this very day; everything from employment to fair housing. 2) Re-write the history books to reflect the ENTIRE truth (encompassing blacks, native Americans, etc., and their story; not just the “Christopher Columbus” point of view) and incorporate them into schools of every race. This is just for starters.
    “Traces of the Trade” stirs the hornets nest and lights a fire that is more than needed and overdue.
    Hats off to Katrina Browne for her willingness to get beyond her comfort zone and delve into the ugliness of her past relating back to her De Wolf ancestry. This is truly the sign of a remarkable person, committed to personal growth and greatness.

  • Teresa

    FOREIGNID: 16473
    While I agree that this period of time and the shamefulness of it is glossed over in history class this piece was just well boring. Hateful things have happened through out our world history. These were very privilged people with an agenda only to make themselves feel good. Not once during the show did I hear any of them say they are making a personal commitment to reprations other than to talk about it. I would guess that few people in this country are direct desendents of the horrible men who traded humans. Most of us are desendents of imigrants who came to this country long after slaverly was abolished. I recently met a holocaust survivor who put her experiences in the most wonderful perspective ….she talks to school children about her experience in the hopes that they will stick up for others and never let crimes like that happen again. That is what all people need to talk about. To speak of fiancial reprations expecially at this tough economic time will only fuel further sepration of people of different races and increase misunderstanding.

  • TheFool

    FOREIGNID: 16474
    Sorry if I missed the link but is this available on DVD yet? Thanks!

  • Andrew Catauro

    FOREIGNID: 16475
    You can buy ‘Traces of the Trade’ on DVD for home use here:
    For more information on institutional, educational, or faith-based organization purchases, check out our P.O.V. Buy the Film page:

  • The African

    FOREIGNID: 16476
    This comment has been edited by the moderator for profanity and content.
    History or HIS-story, all depends on what lenses you are looking at it. To the white mans eyes, some see it and mostly don’t. Who cares?? Life moves on. One thing I, as an African, can’t forgive or forget is the atrcocities the white man has inflicted in africa. I don’t know where to start. Too much to bear, why did God decide to do that?? WHY???
    Slavery was the white mans salvation, without it your modern empires(hoarders of weapons of mass destruction) wouldn’t have been fruitful. We built America and provided goods and services to a disease infested Europe. We fought in your wars, fought for your salvation, sweetened your tea, clothed your bear skin(not bare but bear!). What we need is recognition and empathy…[edited by the moderator]…
    Others cultures have also contributed to the Americas but not as much as us africans. …[edited by the moderator]… To those who choose to say that their ancestors were not part of the trade is to say that popcorn is not made of corn, get it??
    I also despise people saying that africans contributed fully to slave trade. That’s a devilsh frame of mind, shifting the blame. The white man(England, France, Germany, Belgium, Portugal, Netherlands, you name it) came with his Gatlin gun and disease, how could the african survive? If an african tribe traded in africans, that tribe would have been the richest then and now!!, What did we get in return? Mirrors, wine, shoes, blankets, money?? …[edited by the moderator]…
    That’s HIS-story.
    There is a faction of africans in South Africa called the 32 Battalion that was involved in the disruption of african nations( inorder for the white devil to install their many puppet governments), trained and equipped by the white man. U can see how one tribe out of thousands with Gatlin guns can cause havoc in africa. Check history. When interviewed certains members were apologetic and said that they had no choice but to fight. If u get thrown into the front lines and the so-called enemy is trying to kill u, what are you going to do?? Shoot back right, and especially if you get dropped in a foreign land. Remember, all africans are not the same, we speak different languages. Like the white man, the french is not an Englishman. These South Africans and other puppet armies destroyed what was already destroyed from the slave trade. Millions of africans died in the slave trade and as well as colonialism, and continue to this day from the collateral damage. We are suffering from the slave trade and colonialism radioactivity, worse than the after effects of Uranium or Plutonium contamination. Ask Japan.
    To the film writer, I saw the program on PBS. I see a genuine effort by some of the Dewolf family to atone. ATONE. Your burden has been lifted, you see history not HIS-story. All I want from the Dewolf family is to build a school or invest in africa now and in the future. That will help.
    To the devil(white man,sons and daughters who benefited from slavery and refuse to acknowledge it), I hope you can make such an excuse in the presence of your maker!! I don’t want your apology cause it’s not genuine, save it for Sunday church …[edited by the moderator]…
    To the reader, I love my heritage and I see everyone as Gods children. I have white women married into my family! It is what it is.
    The queen of England is still wearing the biggest diamond on her head. No diamonds on British soil. Was that one of the bartered goods?? or was it stolen?? The Chinese are fighting tooth and nail to retreive stolen property by the colonialist, because it belongs to them and not a rogue execu-theif.

  • Jerry Stafford

    FOREIGNID: 19929
    I am a descendant of slaves from Cumberland Island, GA. We have found out that Robert Stafford Jr.(the plantation owner) got most of his slaves from the DeWolf family slave ships in the late 1700s to 1860s. It is believed the DeWolf famliy did some trading with Mitchell shipping and Keg(sp) shipping during that time. From what we have found out most of our ancestors may have come from the ports in Ghana. Is it possible for you to assist me in finding out more information. I would like to contact the DeWolf family and see if they have any records that could help out.

  • Ellen Sherfey

    FOREIGNID: 22932
    Those whose internal lives are affected daily by events begun generations before their birth and have unknown historic family members irrevocably destroyed have a personal and cultural urge to seek edification and mutual support. Formal education in Black History has been one way to more tangibly grasp meaning than has hate mongering yet each discussion lends words and voice to those most deeply wronged.
    Until Caucasians feel a call to fathom the depths of family histories beyond genealogy to cultural and ancestral character, there won’t be mass community meetings nor formal education on the topic of the slave trade from a white perspective and reasoned dialogue from African Americans will find limited useful response.

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