This entry by Producer/Director Katrina Browne is cross-posted from the blog of the Tracing Center, the nonprofit founded to carry on the mission inspired by Traces of the Trade.
I’m one of the jaded ones now.
So it surprised me not to find Fernando Wood rearing his pro-slavery head again, this time as a Democratic Congressman from New York. Here he was on the big screen in Steven Spielberg’s film Lincoln, showing up in 1865 as a vocal opponent in Congress to the passage of the 13th amendment. I knew of him from four years earlier, when in 1861, as mayor of New York City, on the heels of South Carolina’s secession, he proposed that the city should also secede from the Union. He was well aware that New York’s economy was inextricably tied to slavery.
Once you know about the North’s complicity in slavery and racism you see the through-line almost everywhere you look. The winter-spring of 1865 that is the subject of Lincoln thus becomes just one more chapter.
In the popular, white, non-southern imagination, we put Lincoln on a pedestal, but we subconsciously put ourselves on that pedestal too, because he is our symbol of northern determination to end slavery. That was us. The good guys.
The Episcopal Church, through its Executive Council’s Anti-Racism Committee, has called for dioceses and congregations to view our PBS documentary, “Traces of the Trade: A Story from the Deep North,” and to participate in facilitated conversations about the film.
The Anti-Racism Committee, chaired by the Rev. John Kitagawa, was responding to Resolution A-143 from the 2009 General Convention, which calls on dioceses to learn about the historic complicity of the Church in slavery and racial discrimination. Resolution A-143, in turn, followed similar resolutions at the 2006 General Convention which were adopted following screenings of a rough cut of Traces of the Trade and pleas from DeWolf family members appearing in the film. Scenes from the debate and adoption of these resolutions appear towards the end of the film.
For information about obtaining the film, arranging for facilitated conversations, or inquiring about our other programs on slavery, race, and privilege, please see the Tracing Center’s programs and screenings page.James DeWolf Perry
Katrina Browne and James DeWolf Perry have an opinion article at CNN.com on the North’s myths about the Civil War, slavery, and race.