Film confronts the roots of America’s black/white divide

“Racism, unfortunately, is baked into the DNA of the United States of America,” says the Rev. Jeffrey Spencer, Senior Pastor at Niles Discovery Church. “Slaves were considered less than fully human in our founding documents, and only people of color were slaves.”

Spencer’s church will screen the feature documentary Traces of the Trade: A Story from the Deep North, on Saturday, May 14, at 1:30 p.m. In this feature documentary, filmmaker Katrina Browne discovers that her New England ancestors were the largest slave-trading family in U.S. history. She and nine cousins retrace the Triangle Trade and gain powerful new perspectives on the black/white divide in America.

The screening will be followed by a discussion led by the Rev. Sandhya Jha and attorney Peggy Bristol. Both Jha and Bristol have extensive experience in anti-racism work. The screening is free and open to the public; donations are welcome to help cover the costs of the screenings.

Given the myth that the South is solely responsible for slavery, viewers will be surprised to learn that Browne’s ancestors were Northerners. In following Browne and nine fellow family members on a remarkable journey, Traces of the Trade brings us all face-to-face with the history and legacy of New England’s hidden enterprise.

The issues with which the DeWolf descendants are confronted dramatize questions that apply to the nation as a whole: What, concretely, is the legacy of slavery – for diverse whites, for diverse blacks, for diverse others? Who owes who what for the sins of the fathers of this country? What history do we inherit as individuals and as citizens? How does Northern complicity change the equation? What would repair – spiritual and material – really look like and what would it take?

This screening is part of the Second Saturday Documentary Series, cosponsored by Niles Discovery Church and the San Jose Peace & Justice Center.

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