Screening at Saint John’s • Sunday, November 22, 5:00 p.m. • The Parish Hall
In the feature documentary Traces of the Trade: A Story from the Deep North, filmmaker Katrina Browne discovers that her New England ancestors were the largest slave-trading family in U.S. history. She and nine cousins retrace the Triangle Trade and gain powerful new perspectives on the black/white divide.
Given the myth that the South holds sole responsibility for the institution of slavery, viewers will be surprised to learn that Browne’s ancestors were Northerners—the DeWolf family of Bristol, Rhode Island. The film follows Browne and her cousins as together they embark on a remarkable journey that brings them face to face with the history and legacy of New England’s hidden enterprise.
From 1769 to 1820, DeWolf fathers, sons and grandsons trafficked in human beings. They sailed their ships from Bristol, Rhode Island to West Africa with rum to trade for African men, women and children. Captives were taken to plantations that the DeWolfs owned in Cuba or were sold at auction in such ports as Havana and Charleston. Sugar and molasses were then brought from Cuba to the family-owned rum distilleries in Bristol. Over the generations, the family transported more than ten thousand enslaved Africans across the Middle Passage. They amassed an enormous fortune. By the end of his life, James DeWolf had been a U.S. Senator and was reportedly the second richest man in the United States.
This is not a story somehow distant from us; it is part of our own story. The third rector of Saint John’s was DeWolf Perry, a descendant of James DeWolf; and his son, Dain, is one of the cousins who traveled along with Katrina Browne in the making of this film. Join us as Dain and his wife Constance share this story with us, and lead us in conversation following the screening.