Four-Star Presents Inheriting the Trade

January 25th, 2013 | SMWC

Thomas DeWolf
Thomas DeWolf

Equality, freedom and race are the powerful themes presented by Thomas DeWolf as he recounts the steps of his ancestors as the largest slave-trading dynasty in the United States. DeWolf will present the Emmy-award nominated documentary, “Traces of the Trade: A Story from the Deep North” at the Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College Four Star Series on February 11, 2013, in the Cecilian Auditorium at 7 p.m. The presentation is free and open to the public.

DeWolf and other family members traveled the notorious Triangle Trade—from New England to West Africa to Cuba—proved life-altering, forcing him to face the horrors of slavery directly for the first time. The experience inspired him to write the book “Inheriting the Trade.”

DeWolf reveals in the book and in the film that slavery was as common in the North as it was in the South. Not only were people enslaved in the North for over two hundred years but the vast majority of all slave trading in the United States was done by Northerners. Remarkably, half of all North American voyages involved in the slave trade originated from Rhode Island. DeWolf discovered that three generations of his family participated in the slave trade. They transported more than 10,000 African people to the West Indies and North and South America.

According to DeWolf, his personal journey is meant to invite reasoned dialogue toward a more hopeful future. “The point isn’t to spotlight our family’s history so much as to use our family’s story as a springboard to a deeper conversation,” he explained.

An official selection for the 2008 Sundance Film Festival, “Traces of the Trade” premiered on national television on the acclaimed PBS series “Point of View.” DeWolf also appeared on “The CBS Early Show.” He regularly speaks at colleges, universities, conferences and other venues regarding diversity social justice and racism. DeWolf is a graduate of Northwest Christian College and the University of Oregon.

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