POV: Traces of the Trade

Wow, I watched almost all of the premiere POV episode called Traces of the Trade last night.  I'd recommend it to anyone.  This documentary is about the De Wolf family of Rhode Island, and interviews the contemporary ancestors of this family during their self-exploration about their deep involvement in the slave trade.  Many of these ancestors had never even known that they were decendants of slave traders.  Wow.  How hard harsh is that?!

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2 Responses to POV: Traces of the Trade

  1. James says:

    Many of these ancestors had never even known that they were decendants of slave traders. Wow. How hard is that?!
    Actually, you might be surprised, Ashley. Most members of the DeWolf family that I've met only had the faintest notion.
    The D'Wolf family were seen, even in their day, as merchants trading in a wide variety of goods. The slave trade was only a small part of their business, and it was widely accepted throughout society.
    In the case of my own ancestor, James D'Wolf, he got out of the slave trade and then went on to an illustrious career. As you probably heard in the film, he was a U.S. senator and, through his trading and investments, became the second-richest man in the U.S.
    I think it's easy to see why, in later generations, people rarely mentioned one of his many early businesses … especially if most people no longer approved of it. After a while, there's no one left alive, in most branches of the family, who remembers.
    This closely parallels the history of the nation. After a few generations, people start to forget that there was slavery in the North almost as long as in the South, and that the North dominated the slave trade business and that its economy profited handsomely from southern slavery.

  2. Ashley says:

    James — it's really cool that your family opened up to have this part of your ancestry documented. That's not an easy decision to have made. I was really trying to convey not that I was surprised that they didn't know, but simply that it was a hard truth to discover. My wording should have been better! Truth be told, I think I meant to type "harsh". In general, I encourage anyone to watch the documentary, it's really an amazing story, and you guys are amazing for sharing it with the world.

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