Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Traces of the Trade

[Episcopal News Service] Public Broadcasting System's (PBS) Point of View (POV) documentary show begins its 21st season on June 24 with the national broadcast premiere of "Traces of the Trade."

"Traces," one of three documentaries bought by POV at the Sundance Film Festival in January, tells the story of the DeWolf family, the largest slave-trading family in U.S. history and also a prominent part of the Episcopal Church in Rhode Island. James DeWolf Perry was the 18th Presiding Bishop.

POV is set to air at 10 p.m. EDT. Local times (via ZIP code or state) may be searched here.

The film's release comes during the year that marks the bicentennial anniversary of the United States' abolition of the slave trade.

In the film, Katrina Browne, a DeWolf descendant and the documentary's producer and director, narrates while cameras follow her and nine other family members as they retrace the route of the "Triangle Trade" in slaves, rum, sugar and other goods between Rhode Island, Ghana, and Cuba. Browne and the others address issues of atonement and reconciliation during their journey.

"In 'Traces of the Trade,' we wanted to ask this question: What is our responsibility?" said Browne. "I'm less concerned with understanding the extreme inhumanity of my ancestors than with understanding the mundane, ordinary complicity of the majority of New Englanders who participated in a slave-based economy. That had more parallels to me and my family today: well-intentioned white folks who are still part of systems that do harm. It's important to roll up our sleeves to deal with what we all inherited from our country's history."

Several screenings of the rough cut of "Traces of the Trade" at the Episcopal Church's 75th General Convention in June 2006 were influential in creating the atmosphere in which the convention passed a number of resolutions about the church and racism. These included A123, in which the Episcopal Church apologized for "its complicity in and the injury done by the institution of slavery and its aftermath" and called on dioceses to document and study that complicity and its implications.

The film ends with footage from the 75th General Convention about the anti-racism resolutions and Browne's testimony to the committees that considered the resolutions. Browne has said she is excited about the POV purchase of "Traces" in part because "the work of the Episcopal Church is now going to be taken to the nation."

More information about POV's premiere of "Traces" is available here.

No comments: