The Tracing Center is committed to exploring several pervasive myths about the history of the United States.
For many Americans, the history of slavery is primarily a story of southern plantations and heroic northern abolitionists. In fact, there were slaves in the North for nearly as long as in the South, and the North dominated the slave trade business. The country’s historical amnesia about the role of the North in slavery and the slave trade has spawned other myths about our shared past, as well. Individual northern families may no longer recall their old connections to slavery or the slave trade. Because the slave trade was a northern phenomenon, the historic abolition of the slave trade and its significance for the abolition of slavery itself have largely been forgotten. Finally, many Americans do not fully appreciate the generations of suffering, after the Civil War, of the former slaves and their descendants in both the North and the South, and therefore are unaware of the myriad ways in which the legacy of slavery remains with us today.
“The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”
– William Faulkner, “Requiem for a Nun” (1950)