"Traces of the Trade" film, discussion, & panel

From Chapel Hill Town Council Member Sally Greene's blog:

A couple of months ago, Al blogged about "Traces of the Trade," a documentary made by a descendant of the DeWolf family of Rhode Island, "the largest slave trading family in U.S. history" according to the film. The documentary follows the steps of the filmmaker Katrina Browne and a handful of other descendants as they retrace the paths over which this trading took place: from Bristol, Rhode Island to Ghana to the Caribbean.

The film premiered at Sundance and has been shown on PBS (see trailer). And because the family included a good number of Episcopal priests, it has been taken up by the Episcopal Church nationally as part of the church's ongoing work of reconciliation with its complicity with slavery and racism.

On Sept. 6, as part of a conversation sponsored by the Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina at St. Matthew's church in Hillsborough, the film will be shown. After the film, I'll be part of a panel discussion--in which I'll be bringing our own Thomas Ruffin to the table.


Saturday, September 6, 2008 - 5:00am to 12:30pm


St. Matthew's Episcopal Church, Hillsborough

Reenactment of Polk's 1847 Visit to Chapel Hill

Welcome to Chapel Hill President Polk!

The Preservation Society of Chapel Hill will be recreating the 1847 visit of President James K. Polk to Chapel Hill on Saturday, May 3, 2008. The event will be from 10 am to 4 pm at the Horace Williams House at 610 E. Rosemary Street. Costumed reenactors will be preparing for the President’s arrival while Mexican War soldiers drill on the historic lawn of the 1840s Horace Williams House. Children’s games, period music, and demonstrations will also be part of the day’s activities. The event is free and open to the community.

Recreating the visit of one of America’s least known Presidents seems, at first, to be less than thrilling but the Preservation Society of Chapel Hill thinks just the opposite. On May 3, 2008, the Society will host President James K. Polk’s return to Chapel Hill, complete with period decorations, music, and soldiers of the era. The event seems like a pleasant day of living history but why Polk? “I had originally planned the event based on the age of the Horace Williams House” says Preservation Society Director Ernest Dollar, “but the more I learned about Polk’s presidency, the more I realized it eerily mirrored current events.”

Polk took a rare trip away from the Whitehouse in 1847 to visit his alma mater. Polk attended the University of North Carolina in 1816 and became the 11th President of the United States in 1844, only one of three from North Carolina. During his visit to Chapel Hill national issues such as war, immigration, and the economy consumed America. By highlighting the similarities between the 1840s and the first decade of the 21st century, Dollar hopes to make history relevant.

“I was struck by the comparison between the dubious beginnings of the Mexican War and the controversy surrounding the invasion of Iraq,” said Dollar. Another similar issue Dollar highlights as another connection with the American of Polk age is the question of immigration, “then it was the Irish and now it is the Latinos.” The irony of the event is embodied in the comparison Polk’s election in 1844 to George Bush’s in 2000. Polk was the country’s first dark horse candidate and won when a third political party siphoned away votes from the popular candidate Henry Clay. Dollar concluded by adding, “It really makes you consider the old axiom of history repeating itself.”

Dollar is confident the children’s games, period music, and demonstrations slated for the day will be fun for all ages, but in the end, he hopes the public will come away with an increased appreciation for history’s role in our modern lives and how it ultimately shapes the future.


Saturday, May 3, 2008 - 6:00am to 12:00pm


Horace Williams House, 610 E. Rosemary Street

Book Discussion: Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed by Jared Diamond

Join our discussion of Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed by Jared Diamond. This geographer recounts why past societies have failed and what we need to do to keep our society going. The Seattle Times writes, “Diamond’s most influential gift may be his ability to write about geopolitical and environmental systems in ways that don’t just educate and provoke, but entertain.”

Book Description:

Using a vast historical and geographical perspective ranging from Easter Island and the Maya to Viking Greenland and modern Montana, Diamond traces a fundamental pattern of environmental catastrophe—one whose warning signs can be seen in our modern world and that we ignore at our peril. Blending the most recent scientific advances into a narrative that is impossible to put down, Collapse exposes the deepest mysteries of the past even as it offers hope for the future.


Tuesday, February 19, 2008 - 2:00pm to 3:00pm


Carrboro Cybrary, 100 N. Greensboro St., Carrboro

Presidents, Politics and Power: American Presidents Who Shaped the 20th Century

The Carrboro Cybrary and Carrboro Recreation & Parks present “Presidents, Politics & Power: American Presidents Who Shaped the 20th Century.” Each week we will be viewing a film that provides a presidential biography and opens up a discussion of our nation’s leaders.  The presidents included in the series are: Teddy Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan.  Following each film, Dr. David Zonderman, a history professor at NC State, will lead us in discussion and answer questions.  You can pick up a packet of short essays at the Cybrary that will help inform the discussion.  Come learn about the impact of past presidents before voting in a new one this year.  This program is made possible in part by a grant from the North Carolina Humanities Council, an affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Preview the series by viewing the first video online via NC Live!  Log in to NC Live from the Cybrary’s website and go to the new NC Live Media Collection.  Click on TR: The Story of Theodore Roosevelt, Parts 1 & 2. Then, come join us in the Century Center for another viewing and discussion on Monday, January 28th.

Mondays 9:00-11:00am
Januay 28 -- March 3
Carrboro Century Center


Monday, January 28, 2008 - 4:00am to 6:00am


Carrboro Century Center, 100 N. Greensboro St.



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