About our new partnership to form the Center for Reconciliation

Posted August 24th, 2015 by
Category: News and Announcements, Outreach, Public History Tags: , , , , ,

Cathedral of St. John in Providence, R.I.Today the New York Times is running an article on our partnership to create a Center for Reconciliation in the Episcopal cathedral in Providence, R.I.

The article, by Katharine Seelye, is headlined “Rhode Island Church Taking Unusual Step to Illuminate Its Slavery Role.” Seelye discusses our plans to offer a museum interpreting slavery and the slave trade in Rhode Island, and the North, with emphasis on the historical complicity of the entire nation, including the Episcopal Church, in the institution of slavery. She also talks about our intent to offer programming and community activities aimed at educating the general public and fostering dialogue, healing, and reconciliation.

The article details how the DeWolf family’s efforts to illuminate their slave-trading past in Rhode Island, including Katrina Browne’s PBS documentary, “Traces of the Trade,” have helped to inspire the Episcopal Diocese to put forward the idea for the Center for Reconciliation.

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A school built by abolitionists — and a slave trader

Posted January 20th, 2014 by
Category: History, Outreach Tags: , , ,

Perkins School for the BlindThis year, to commemorate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I was invited to speak at Perkins School for the Blind and to participate in the school’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Day activities. Perkins School was founded 185 years ago as the first school for the blind in the United States, and has spent that time as a leader in innovating technology and pedagogy for educating the blind, the deafblind, and those with additional disabilities.

The students of Perkins celebrated King’s life through music and with a dramatic reading of his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. As the keynote speaker, I focused on telling the story of my family, the DeWolf slave-trading family, as we uncovered our family’s hidden past and worked to turn that history into a documentary film, Traces of the Trade. I talked about how our family’s history illustrates the much broader involvement of New England, the North, and the entire United States in slavery and the slave trade. I spoke of the ways in which so many of us in this country are tied to the history of slavery, and benefit from that history today, and about the importance of acknowledging this history, rather than finding a way to turn away from the truth or to insist that this history is really about other people, and not about ourselves.

The students were also provided a dramatic illustration of how to acknowledge this history by the school’s president, Steven M. Rothstein, through an op-ed he wrote for this occasion, which ran last week in the Boston Globe under the headline, “A school built by abolitionists — and a slaver.” In this essay, Mr. Rothstein detailed how the history of Perkins includes strong ties to progressive abolitionists—but that the school is also named for a wealthy benefactor, Thomas Handasyd Perkins, who made part of his fortune in the slave trade.

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Katrina Browne appears on “Democracy Now!” with Amy Goodman and Juan González

Posted November 4th, 2013 by
Category: News and Announcements, Outreach

On Wednesday, Katrina Browne, producer/director of Traces of the Trade: A Story from the Deep North and co-founder of the Tracing Center, was interviewed live on Democracy Now! by Amy journalist Goodman.

Katrina appeared following an interview with Craig Steven Wilder, author of the new book, Ebony & Ivy: Race, Slavery, and the Troubled History of America’s Universities, which explores the historical dependence of U.S. colleges and universities on slavery and on financial support generated by the economics of slavery, as well as the role of these institutions in the propagation of the ideology that supported slavery and racism.

In the interview, Katrina talks about being a descendant of the nation’s leading slave-trading family, which motivated her to produce Traces of the Trade and to co-found a center devoted to exploring the historical involvement of U.S. families and institutions, North and South, in slavery. She also speaks about the stew of emotional issues that can come up for many white Americans in the course of addressing this history and its legacy today.

Here is Katrina’s portion of the interview:

For the earlier portion of the hour with Professor Wilder, see here.



Letter from Katrina Browne

Posted December 16th, 2010 by
Category: Outreach

Dear friends,

I am so pleased to be sending the first newsletter from our new non-profit: The Tracing Center on Histories and Legacies of Slavery.  Here you can read great stories about what we’ve been up to this year with many different collaborators … all over the U.S. and overseas.  We wholeheartedly invite you to get further involved with our efforts, through programming and/or financial support.

We formed the Tracing Center in 2010 as an organic extension of two years of work screening Traces of the Trade, having heard, again and again, about the ongoing need for programming about slavery and race that works at a more systemic level, such as in the fields of education and public history.  We received encouraging feedback in a comprehensive on-line survey about our 2009 programming, showing high demand for broader and deeper programming.  You can read our mission statement here.

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Traces of the Trade in Bermuda: Big Watch and Big Read

Posted December 9th, 2010 by
Category: Outreach Tags: , ,

Photo credit: Michelle Dismont-Frazzoni

In April, Katrina Browne, executive director of the Tracing Center and producer/director/writer of Traces of the Trade: A Story from the Deep North, was invited to Bermuda by the anti-racism organization Citizens Uprooting Racism in Bermuda (CURB) to present the film and speak to high school students and community members about her journey and our work around racial justice and reconciliation.

The dialogues in Bermuda deeply moved hundreds of people and a short video, Discussing the Trade, was created by local filmmaker Alex Dill to record the impact of our visit. You can see the video here.

Photo credit: Michelle Dismont-Frazzoni

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Flat Justin receives Birmingham Civil Rights History tour

Posted March 18th, 2010 by
Category: Outreach Tags: , , , ,

Tom DeWolf is a regular guest contributor and the author of Inheriting the Trade: A Northern Family Confronts Its Legacy as the Largest Slave-Trading Dynasty in U.S. History. This entry is cross-posted from Tom’s blog, and the opinions expressed are his own.

I had never heard of “Flat Stanley” when my lifelong friend Mike Godfrey wrote and asked if his son could send me his “Flat Justin” to spend some time with me. Mike and I grew up together because our parents were best friends. We went on vacations together and our families jointly owned a cabin in the mountains. We had some serious snowball fights over the years. I’m not sure there is anyone I spent more time with growing up than Mike until I moved to Oregon to attend college almost 40 years ago. I was honored that JJ chose me to send Flat Justin to.

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