‘Traces of the Trade’ at Upstate Films

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Have you been looking for a reason to take a trip to upstate New York this weekend? Look no further — here’s the perfect opportunity to see a great film in one of the prettiest towns in the region.

Katrina Browne’s Traces of the Trade: A Story from the Deep North will have a special sneak-preview screening at the indie arthouse cinema Upstate Films, in Rhinebeck, New York, this coming Saturday, June 14, at 1:30 p.m. The screening is free, and will feature a Q&A with Traces co-producer Elizabeth Delude-Dix. Rhinebeck is located about two hours north of New York City.

Watch Traces of the Trade on PBS, June 24 at 10 p.m.; or view the trailer online.

In the film, Browne and nine other descendants of the DeWolf family grapple with their ancestors’ legacy as the largest slave trading family in U.S. They embark on a journey to retrace the Triangle Trade: from their old hometown in Rhode Island to slave forts in Ghana to sugar plantation ruins in Cuba. Step by step, they uncover the vast extent of Northern complicity in slavery while also stumbling through the minefield of contemporary race relations. In this bicentennial year of the U.S. abolition of the slave trade, Traces of the Trade offers powerful new perspectives on the black/white divide.

If you’ll be in Rhineback for the event, you’ll also have a chance to see another POV film that Upstate will be screening: Yung Chang‘s Up The Yangtze is about the Three Gorges Dam Project, the largest hydroelectric dam project in history — and life along the Yangtze River, which it will change forever.

How far would you travel for a great film? Let us know below!

David Nanasi
David Nanasi
David has worked on POV's website since its infancy, helping to develop and nurture it, as well as producing special features. David also oversees and administers POV's internal network, maintaining hardware and software for the POV staff. Prior to joining POV, David, served on the staff of CyberEd, an 18-wheeler Internet classroom that toured nationwide. Since 1997, David has worked independently as a computer consultant, including systems, networks, databases, and web design and construction. David's favorite documentaries are: 1. Eyes on the Prize - Henry Hampton (Executive Producer) 2. Crumb - Terry Zwigoff 3. The Thin Blue Line - Errol Morris 4. Roger & Me - Michael Moore 5. The Camden 28 - Anthony Giacchino
  • Toni

    FOREIGNID: 15632
    One thing that seemed to be missing from the Traces of the Trade story were, where did the slaves initially come from? Who was responsible for shackling them to begin with? If I remember correctly, the other tribes captured these people and enslaved them for trade value. For rum? Were they forced into trading? Unless the white people came into Africa and put the initial shackles on these African peoples then where is the accountability of the initial source of the capture and enslavement of their own peoples?
    I, in no way, believe any type of slavery to be right in any capacity. Women of all races have been captured into slavery of some form for generations. We can’t even get the ERA passed. Does this mean at some point there will be reparation paid to women for all the lower pay and lack of rights that were initially denied them?
    It seems to me that there was slavery from the beginning of time. People take others into captivity so that they can own their property and land. This has been a prolific downfall of man and forms still exist today.

  • Liz

    FOREIGNID: 15633
    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 had 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.

  • Alice

    FOREIGNID: 15634
    It was nice to see a white American family trying o face the extent of their own involvement in the slave trade. The best moment to me was the scene at the dinner table after they had returned home. All but one of those there were graduates of Ivy League schools that generations of their familes had attended. That proves what I as an African American educator have always known–the consequences of 300 years of slavery in the US are still with us. The descendants of the slave traders like the De Wolf family continue to enjoy economic and social privileges while the descendants of the enslaved Africans they imported to the western hemisphere have yet, as a group, been able to catch up.
    Reparations is NOT the answer for the guilt of the Dewolf family. Rather than a one-time payment black Amercans need a long term commitment to improved k-12 education, access to quality health care, and a fighting chance to enroll in elite colleges and universities. .