From Publishers Weekly
In the summer of 2001, Katrina Browne led nine distant family members on their own triangular passage as she made a documentary film (Traces of the Trade: A Story from the Deep North) about their DeWolf ancestors, the largest slave-trading dynasty in early America—who transported 10,000 Africans to America and the Caribbean between 1769 and 1820. DeWolf, one of Browne's cousins, traces the journey in this soul-searching memoir, beginning in Bristol, R.I., the hub of the late–18th-century trade, and continuing to Ghana, Cuba and back to New England. At each station of the trip, the Family of Ten visits historic sites, and distinguished historians address the group about aspects of the slave trade. DeWolf's account gains immediacy as he reports these presentations and the ensuing group discussions, along with their personal struggles to come to terms with an ignominious family history and his own sharp learning curve. His narrative, however, bogs down toward its conclusion in an irrelevant account of allegations of sexual harassment made against him and a digressive though thought-provoking discussion of reparations for slavery. Nevertheless, DeWolf promotes conversation about truth of the past and its impact on the present.
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"Exploring the links between a grand Rhode Island mansion and dungeons in Ghana, Tom DeWolf traces the infernal trade that gave his family, and this country, great wealth and power. His journey into the past forces painful questions to the surface and illuminates our present."—Henry Wiencek, Winner of the National Book Critics' Circle Award and author of An Imperfect God: George Washington, His Slaves, and the Creation of America
"Inheriting the Trade
is a compelling invitation to explore how our country and many institutions, including churches, benefited from this dark chapter. Such exploration is essential if we are to move forward to a place of repair and racial reconciliation."—Frank T. Griswold, 25th Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church
"Tom DeWolf’s deeply personal story, of his own journey as well as his family’s, is required reading for anyone interested in reconciliation. Healing from our historic wounds, which continue to separate us, requires us to walk this road together."—Myrlie Evers-Williams, civil rights leader, chairman emeritus of the NAACP (1995-98), and author of The Autobiography of Medgar Evers, Watch Me Fly,
and For Us the Living
"Inheriting the Trade
is like a slow-motion mash-up, a first-person view from within one of the country’s founding families as it splinters, then puts itself back together again."—Edward Ball, author of Slaves in the Family
"A candid, powerful, and insightful book about how one family dealt with the infamous slave trade. Jarring in its candor, and revealing in its honest assessment of slavery and the Dewolf family, we must read important books like this if we dare to appreciate every aspect of our history, and as the Dewolf family does, dare to change our judgments about the wretched history of slavery."—Professor Charles J. Ogletree, Jr., Executive Director, The Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice at Harvard Law School