Monday, November 8, 2010

Should African Americans take an aggressive approach to reparations for slavery?

Should African Americans take an aggressive approach to reparations for slavery?

The DeWolfs family is recorded as a northern family with the largest slave trading dynasty in the US History. Their estate still exists today.

"The DeWolfs had a big one: From 1769 to 1820, the clan’s fathers, sons and grandsons trafficked in human beings. They sailed ships filled with rum and guns from Bristol to West Africa, where they purchased African captives on the coast. The captives were then shipped to plantations that the DeWolfs owned in Cuba or were sold at auction in such ports as Havana and Charleston, S.C.
The family owned 47 ships and transported 10,000 Africans into New World slavery. That represented about 60 percent of all slave voyages from Bristol.
When the United States outlawed the practice in 1808, the DeWolfs broke the law and shipped slaves from Africa to Cuba.
Business was good. With money from the trade and privateering, the DeWolfs opened a bank, an insurance company and a rum distillery on the Bristol waterfront. By one account, a quarter of the town’s residents did business directly with the family. In 1812, the DeWolfs owned more ships than the U.S. Navy."

"James DeWolf (1764-1837), was a U.S. senator and a wealthy merchant who was reportedly the second-richest person in the country when he died. In the 1790s and early 1800s, DeWolf and his brothers virtually built the economy of Bristol: many of the buildings they funded still stand, and the stained glass windows at St. Michael’s Episcopal Church bear DeWolf names to this day. Across the generations, their family has included state legislators, philanthropists, writers, scholars, and Episcopal bishops and priests."
In a recent documentary, just 10 out of the numerous DeWolf descendants embarked on a journey to explore their family history. As they cracked opened the horrors and shame of their family's involvement within the transcontinental slave trade, the "Dewolf Ten" reflected on a new sense of self awareness and activism.

From 1769 to 1820, the DeWolfs were the nation’s leading slave traders. As the DeWolfs estate still exists today, (museums, monuments, other inheritances, residuals and the family name) as well as estates of other former slave traders, does reparations seem like a sound request to initiate some sort of repair and restoration to descendants of slaves?

Nine out of these 10 Dewolfs descendants, shown in the documentary, attended prestigious universities. Many attended Harvard, one attended Princeton and another attended Brown University. A question was raised in their documentary whether they would have attended Harvard or had their education if their circumstances had been different.
What do you think? Should African Americans take a closer look at slavery? Should a lost culture closely examine the idea of reparation and/or restorations?