Hot off the press: our new book, “Interpreting Slavery at Museums and Historic Sites”

Posted December 30th, 2014 by
Category: News and Announcements, Public History Tags: , , , , , ,

Interpreting Slavery at Museums and Historic Sites (Rowman & Littlefield, 2014)Update: Interpreting Slavery is now back in stock at Amazon.

We’re pleased to announce the release of the Tracing Center’s new book, Interpreting Slavery at Museums and Historic Sites (Rowman & Littlefield, 2014).

“This seminal work … will make a significant impact.”

— Rex M. Ellis, Associate Director, Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture

Interpreting Slavery, edited by Kristin Gallas and James DeWolf Perry, is the most visible product to date of a three-year Tracing Center project to develop and disseminate best practices in slavery interpretation. This project has also included surveys of the field, workshops at historic sites and museums, conference presentations and instructional sessions, as well as additional publications.

The book is a collaboration with seven leading public historians with deep expertise in navigating the interpretation of slavery:

  • Dina A. Bailey, National Center for Civil and Human Rights
  • Patricia Brooks, National Endowment for the Humanities
  • Richard C. Cooper, National Underground Railroad Freedom Center
  • Conny Graft, Conny C. Graft Research and Evaluation
  • Linnea Grim, Monticello
  • Katherine D. Kane, Harriet Beecher Stowe Center
  • Nicole A. Moore, Museum Educator and Historic Consultant

Interpreting Slavery at Museums and Historic Sites aims to move the field forward in its collective conversation about the interpretation of slavery—acknowledging criticism of the past and acting in the present to develop an inclusive interpretation of slavery. Presenting the history of slavery in a comprehensive and conscientious manner requires diligence and compassion—for the history itself, for those telling the story, and for those hearing the stories—but it’s a necessary part of our collective narrative about our past, present, and future.
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Leadership transition

Posted June 24th, 2011 by
Category: News and Announcements Tags: , , , ,

The Tracing Center is pleased to announce that our founding executive director, Katrina Browne, has taken on a new role as our director of ideas and external affairs. This shift will allow her to dedicate her time to public activities, content development, and other work on behalf of the organization.

The board of directors has hired James Perry to be our new executive director. James was the founding board chair and president of the Tracing Center and has been centrally involved, since 1999, with Traces of the Trade, for which he shared an Emmy nomination.

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Traces premieres in Cuba—our first visit since filming in 2001

Posted October 22nd, 2010 by
Category: News and Announcements Tags: , , , , ,

We were so thrilled to be able to go to Matanzas and Havana, Cuba in March as part of the Freedom Schooner Amistad’s visit there, which was the result of high level diplomatic discussions, given the significance of a U.S. flag vessel sailing into Havana harbor. The three of us that went were James Perry (cousin in film and our director of research), Tulaine Marshall (lead consultant for our multi-country partnership with the Amistad), and myself. Given the linkages in the two histories, it was very meaningful to be partnered with the replica ship: the story of the Amistad captives rebelling while aboard this vessel that was transporting them from Havana (where they’d been sold off a slave ship) to a plantation elsewhere on the island – and the fact that the DeWolfs were planters on the island during the same period and had been very much part of the illegal slave trade that flourished there.

As readers who have seen the film can imagine, it was a big deal to be able to finally return to Cuba to show the documentary for the first time. I was nervous because during our final editing process, editor Alla Kovgan and I decided to take out two scenes in Cuba, with Cubans. As you may recall, the Cuba section of the final film shows very little interaction with Cubans, despite the entire week we spent visiting/filming with scholars, and speaking with Cubans we met in various places. Alla and I decided that the politics of race relations in Cuba is a whole complex stew, all the more loaded because of relations between our two countries, and that it digressed too much from our main themes in the film to delve into that in the limited space/time we had.

So I was nervous that Cubans would be offended that the time in Cuba in the film was so focused on our family and what we were going through.

To all of our relief, the standing-room only audience at our screening was deeply moved and appreciative, including gracious scholars we had interviewed: Natalia Bolivar and Zoila Lapique. We heard from attendees that, while the communist government officially abolished racial discrimination after the revolution, issues of racism and privilege have lingered in Cuban society as they have elsewhere in the world. So they were eager to see Traces used as a resource for raising these issues because of the many parallels they saw in the film. The means for doing that are now being explored.

Hats off to Boris Ivan Crespo and other members of the Cuban film crew who enabled us to have such great filming in 2001 and who were able to come to the premiere to be appreciated for their handiwork.

Another great breakthrough came when we were invited to speak to staff at the Cuban National Archives. There are several researchers there who specialize in the slave trade, and they have been disappointed that so many scholarly works on the slave trade do not involve research in Cuban archives, despite the centrality of Cuba to the slave trade and the Atlantic slave economy. Because the DeWolfs were so prominent in the illegal slave trade between the U.S., Cuba and Africa, we committed to work with our new colleagues to pursue licenses and funding such that new research collaboration can take place. We were able to see customs log books from the 1810’s and 20’s with names of vessels and captains that we recognized all too well.

Lastly, the three of us were able to learn about a sixth DeWolf plantation, that we hadn’t previously known about, and to visit the location of one that we had not looked for in 2001. The AP wrote a story on that search.

My thanks to the all the Amistad team, the Cuban and U.S. officials, and to our lead consultant Tulaine Marshall for making this incredible visit possible.

A.P. story on Tracing Center visit to Cuba

Posted April 1st, 2010 by
Category: News and Announcements Tags: , , , , ,

The Associated Press is running a story, “US family finds traces of slave-trade past in Cuba,” about the ten-day trip to Cuba just completed by Executive Director Katrina Browne, Director of Research James DeWolf Perry, and Project Director Tulaine Marshall of the Tracing Center on Histories and Legacies of Slavery.

The story, written by A.P. reporter Will Weissert, focuses on the visit paid by Browne, Perry, and Marshall to the site of Mount Hope, a coffee plantation near Madruga owned by Perry’s ancestor James D’Wolf. D’Wolf was the leading slave-trader in U.S. history, sending the majority of his slaving voyages to Cuba, and he would work slaves on plantations like Mount Hope while waiting for prices in Havana’s slave market to rise.

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Press release on visit to Cuba

Posted March 18th, 2010 by
Category: News and Announcements Tags: , , , , , ,

Thursday, March 18, 2010

En español

Katrina Browne, Producer/Director, Traces of the Trade: A Story from the Deep North
Executive Director, The Tracing Center on Histories and Legacies of Slavery o: 617-349-0019          c: 617-290-5275
Ms. Browne will be in Cuba from March 22-30, so may not be reachable then.

Marga Varea, Events and Development Director, The Tracing Center on Histories and Legacies of Slavery o: 617-349-0019          c: 617-710-5436

The Tracing Center on Histories and Legacies of Slavery is pleased to announce that three representatives of the 2009 Emmy®-nominated documentary Traces of the Trade: A Story from the Deep North will be traveling to Cuba with the Freedom Schooner Amistad next week. We are honored to be able to hold the Cuba premiere of the film during the Amistad’s visit.   The ship is visiting Cuba from March 22-31 as part of the United Nations commemoration of March 25 as the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade.  For the press release from Amistad America please see:

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