New documentary on RI's role in the slave trade

Rhode Island for Community & Justice is inviting people to attend a free preview screening at 5:30 tonight, at the Providence Black Repertory Company, of Traces of the Trade: A story from the Deep North, a locally filmed documentary.

It tells the story of producer-director Katrina Browne's ancestors, the DeWolfs, who are described as the largest slave-trading family in American history.

Given the myth that the South is solely responsible for slavery, viewers will be surprised to learn that Browne's ancestors were Northerners. The film follows Browne and nine fellow family members on a remarkable journey which 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 owned 47 ships that transported thousands of Africans across the Middle Passage into slavery. 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.

The enslavement of Africans was business for more than just the DeWolf family. It was a cornerstone of Northern commercial life.

Regarding tonight's screening, RICJ Director Toby Ayers writes,

I encourage all of you to come and see the real history of RI presented - history that so many of us have not seen before - and to have your voices heard.  The filmmaker, Katrina Browne will be available for a question and answer period after the showing, and is interested in hearing your response. 

Btw, a warehouse once used by the DeWolfs in Bristol is now the DeWolf Tavern, a top-notch restaurant.

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