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February 08, 2008

Slave Traders In The Family


Colleges and universities have considered in recent years how to acknowledge their historical connections to slavery and make amends.

A new documentary film makes this issue personal.

Katrina Browne is a descendant of the DeWolfe family. Every 4th of July when she was growing up, her family went to Bristol, R.I., where her prominent and wealthy ancestors had lived, and watched the parade from the lawn of a family mansion.

Katrina had always been proud of her patriotic heritage, so she was stunned in her late 20's when she found out that her family's wealth had been made from the slave trade. In fact, the DeWolfes were the largest slave-trading family in US history.

Katrina decided that the best way to confront the source of her family's wealth was to physically follow the path it took - from the ports of Rhode Island to the slave forts of Ghana to the sugar plantations of Cuba and back again. She invited members of her family to go on the trip with her and 9 accepted.

Katrina talks with Dick Gordon about the trip and the conversations she hopes the film will start in this country - about how the U.S. economy was built on slavery, and what America should do now to make amends. The film, "Traces of the Trade", premiered at Sundance and will air on PBS this summer.


Steve Lanier wrote to The Story to tell us about the funniest person he has ever known - Mr. Louis Phillip Hornthal, better known to all as "LP."

Steve spent many days visiting with LP when he was a child. He died years ago, but LP's antics are still legendary among his friends and family - he is particularly remembered for his cleverly-executed pranks - including the time he convinced the neighborhood kids that a tree could blossom with candy.

Steve tells Dick about the joy and laughter LP brought to the lives of the people around him, and he shares his favorite stories from LP's repertoire of practical jokes.

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