Traces of the Trade

A few weeks ago I held a screening in my living room of Katrina Browne’s film Traces of the Trade. I had met her several weeks earlier at a social get together hosted by Resource Generation at the Council on Foundations Leadership Summit that I attended for work. As she told me about her film project and why she was at the conference, I nodded my head politely like we all do at social get togethers with people we barely know. Somehow her description of what she had documented didn’t impact me–maybe it was my lack of presentness at the moment, or maybe it’s one of those instances of you just can’t get the full real sense of the intensity of this film until you see it. Luckily, I saw it a few days later at a screening hosted by several independent media funders.

If you haven’t heard about it yet, it’s this first time filmmaker’s documentary exploring her white northern family’s involvement in the slave trade. What’s amazing about it is how the discovery unravels and she learns the scope of her family’s involvement–as the largest slave traders in the historu of the US–and at a time when slavery when illegal at that. And, in the North. Everything you thought you knew about the slave trade is completely rearranged in this film.

She goes on to contact all the several hundred people who are descendants of the family and challenges them to go on a trip with her to trace the route of the slave trade their family’s wealth was built upon. I don’t want to give away the rest, but I think most of the people in the circles I travel in will find it pretty interesting. I saw the film first in a mixed audience–people of various ages, races, political leanings. And, the family members were there for a q&a afterwards. Everyone’s reaction to it afterwards was different and interesting in itself.

Our multi-racial discussion in my living room was similarly intense and fascinating. I’m really not doing it justice by summarizing the discussion into that vague sentance–but my reflections and summaries of the others who attended are more than I can type at the moment.

Several people there have suggested that we organize another screening together to continue the momentum. So stay tuned. .


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