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“In ongoing efforts to promote racial reconciliation, this contemporary white family’s journey stands out. It represents the kind of honesty and courage that is so urgently needed to forge new ways of talking and thinking about the legacy of slavery in American life."

Sherrilyn Ifill, author of On the Courthouse Lawn: Confronting the Legacy of Lynching in the Twenty-first Century


About the Book

A Trail-Blazing Memoir About One Family's Quest to Face Its Slave-Trading Past and an Urgent Call for Reconciliation


Inheriting the Trade is the unique story of Thomas Norman DeWolf's experiences during the making of the Emmy-nominated documentary feature film Traces of the Trade: A Story from the Deep North. He is one of ten family members who participated in this powerful journey.

From the Author:

A friend of mine, after reading part of the unfinished manuscript that eventually became Inheriting the Trade, told me she felt—in addition to relating the story of the journey ten people took during the summer of 2001 to retrace the steps of their slave-trading ancestors through the notorious Triangle Trade from New England to Ghana and Cuba and back—that this is also an invitation to a deeper conversation.

I decided to write about my experiences during the making of the documentary feature film Traces of the Trade: A Story from the Deep North shortly after meeting Katrina Browne for the first time in February 2001. I had no idea at the time if I’d be able to publish what I wrote or if it would become something I would print up solely for my children and grandchildren. I’m grateful to many people (whom you can read about in my book’s acknowledgments) that it has become both.

On the surface, Inheriting the Trade is a story about the legacy of slavery and how it continues to impact relationships among people of different races today. By digging deeper, readers will see connections between racism, sexism, religious intolerance, and oppression along class, age, and other lines.

We live in fearful times in a troubled world. I believe we are called to wake up, to open our eyes wide and recognize our kinship with each other, with all others, as equals. We can meet the challenges we face in our world by truly developing compassion for each other, by our intentions, and our actions, to understand those who differ from us.

My friend was right. Inheriting the Trade is an invitation. As you read about the journey that our Family of Ten took, I invite you to examine your own life, how you walk in the world, how you perceive yourself and how others perceive you, and the impact it has on you and those around you.

For a synopsis of Inheriting the Trade, you may visit the Press section of this web site:

  • For a brief synopsis, similar to the inside flap on the book jacket, read “Description of Inheriting the Trade” in the press kit.
  • For a more complete synopsis, read “Beacon Press Publication Announcement (December 2007)
      Inheriting the Trade, by Thomas Norman DeWolf, is published by Beacon Press. Copyright 2007.