Inheriting the Trade

Inheriting the Trade Cover

Inheriting the Trade

A Northern Family Confronts Its Legacy as the Largest Slave-Trading Dynasty in U.S. History

By Thomas Norman Dewolf

Beacon Press (MA), Paperback, 9780807072820, 262pp.

Publication Date: January 1, 2009


In 2001, Thomas DeWolf discovered that he was related to the most successful slave-trading family in U.S. history, responsible for transporting at least ten thousand Africans. This is his memoir of the journey in which ten family members retraced their ancestors' steps through the notorious triangle trade route—from New England to West Africa to Cuba—and uncovered the hidden history of New England and the other northern states.

Praise For Inheriting the Trade

I cannot recommend it highly enough. The book is terrific.—Harry Smith, anchor, The Early Show, CBS

"DeWolf's intimate confrontation with white America's 'unearned privilege' sears the conscience." —Kirkus Reviews

"This soul-searching memoir . . . promotes conversation about 'truth of the past and its impact on the present.'" —Publishers Weekly

"Required reading for anyone interested in reconciliation." —Myrlie Evers-Williams, civil rights leader and author of The Autobiography of Medgar Evers

"[It's] 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

"An eye-opening volume. It not only dispels myths about slavery but also shows how that history haunts this country to this day." —Katie Schneider, the Oregonian

"It is [this] spirit of honesty and the willingness to confront the ugly parts of human experience that give Inheriting the Trade its value."—Marjorie Kehe, the Christian Science Monitor

"An artful merging of historical explication with biography and travelogue."—Mary Donnarumma Sharnick, America magazine

"A candid, powerful, and insightful book."—Professor Charles J. Ogletree, Jr., executive director, Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice at Harvard Law School