College of Liberal Arts

University of Mississippi

Winter Institute to Present Documentary Film ‘Traces of the Trade’

A first-time filmmaker’s documentary on how slavery helped shape America’s history is to be presented Tuesday (Feb. 24) at the University of Mississippi.

Katrina Browne’s “Traces of the Trade: A Story from the Deep North” is being shown at 3 p.m. in Overby Center Auditorium. Browne will take questions from the audience immediately following the film. The event, sponsored by the William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation, is free and open to the public.

“It is important to understand that the legacy of slavery is one that shapes the entire history of our country,” said Susan Glisson, director of the institute. “We are excited to share this courageous effort of one family to tell the truth about the effect of this painful past within their own story.”

“Traces of the Trade” tells the story of Browne’s New England ancestors, the DeWolfes, who were the largest slave-trading family in American history. At Browne’s urging, nine fellow descendants of her prominent family agree to journey with her to retrace the steps of the Triangle Trade.

The group gathers in their old hometown of Bristol, R.I., where they discover disturbing historic documents that require a rethinking of American history as the Fourth of July parade rolls by. Other stops include slave fronts in Ghana and the ruins of a family-owned sugar plantation in Cuba. At each location, the family grapples with the contemporary legacy of slavery, not only for black Americans but also for themselves as white Americans.

Browne pushes them forward as they make their way through the minefield of race politics and debates about reparation. They also come face-to-face with their love-hate relationship to Yankee culture and privilege, and struggle with how to take public action given all that they now know.

Following its world premiere in competition at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival, the film was released as part of the Bicentennial of the U.S. Abolition of the Slave Trade. Alongside the documentary, Beacon Press is publishing a memoir of the journey titled “Inheriting the Trade,” written by family member Tom DeWolf.

For more information about the film, visit http://www.tracesofthetrade.org.