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Publisher's Summary

In 2001, at 47, Thomas DeWolf was astounded to discover that he was related to the most successful slave-trading family in American history, responsible for transporting at least 10,000 Africans to the Americas. His infamous ancestor, U.S. senator James DeWolf of Bristol, of Rhode Island, curried favor with President Jefferson to continue in the trade after it was outlawed. When James DeWolf died in 1837, he was the second-richest man in America.Inheriting the Trade is Tom DeWolf's powerful and disarmingly honest memoir of the journey in which 10 family members retraced the steps of their ancestors and uncovered the hidden history of New England and the other northern states.Their journey through the notorious Triangle Trade - from New England to West Africa to Cuba - proved life-altering, forcing DeWolf to face the horrors of slavery directly for the first time. It also inspired him to contend with the complicated legacy that continues to affect black and white Americans, Africans, and Cubans today.Inheriting the Trade reveals that the North's involvement in slavery was as common as the South's. Not only were black people enslaved in the North for over 200 years, but the vast majority of all slave trading in America was done by Northerners.With searing candor, DeWolf tackles both the internal and external challenges of his journey, writing frankly about feelings of shame, white-male privilege, the complicity of churches, America's historic amnesia regarding slavery - and our nation's desperate need for healing.An urgent call for meaningful and honest dialogue, Inheriting the Trade illuminates a path toward a more hopeful future and provides a persuasive argument that the legacy of slavery isn't merely a Southern issue but an enduring American one.
©2008 Thomas Norman DeWolf; (P)2008 Brilliance Audio
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Critic Reviews

"His conclusions will be controversial, but DeWolf's intimate confrontation with white America's 'unearned privilege' sears the conscience." (Kirkus Reviews)
"Inheriting the Trade is like a slow-motion mash-up, a first-person view from within one of the country's founding families as it splinters, then puts itself back together again." (Edward Ball, author of Slaves in the Family)
"The author's descriptions of the places and history he discovered along the journey are powerful, and the topic is both compelling and important." (AudioFile)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By Rachel on 09-29-15

A VERY important book!

This book taught me a lot more about this country's I'm bitterly ashamed of. But it also showed me that it doesn't have to end in shame; Americans have a responsibility to KNOW what happened & take their part in repairing the damage that their forefathers' evil practices caused & are still causing. Thank you for this book, Tom!

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5 out of 5 stars
By PeacefulSeeker on 03-04-13


Thomas DeWolf's personal reading lends to credibility. I've read a considerable amount of American history including black history--what makes this work stand out is the personal investment in uncovering uncomfortable realities.

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