September 20, 2022
Gail Burton and I recently visited Linden Place in Bristol, Rhode Island as part of our historical tour through New England. We wanted to better understand the local legacy of slavery as we prepare for our upcoming NEFA-funded theatre project, TRUTH: A bio-fictional choreopoem.
Contrary to common misunderstanding, slavery wasn’t just contained to the South. The entire U.S. economy was founded on slavery, the systemic abuse of enslaved people, and the extraction of their labor for profit.
The biggest slave-trading family wasn’t in the South, it was in Bristol. Right here in New England.
Linden Place is a large mansion that was built by that family. If you want to learn more, I recommend the documentary “Traces of the Trade: A Story from the Deep North.”
The trading of enslaved people took place ALL OVER, but especially in New England. This history lives on in the systems of oppression, in the trauma in our bodies, and in the land. By seeing the truth of what happened and is still happening, we can begin to create and imagine new ways of living together and of sharing this Earth.
One intention for TRUTH: A bio-fictional choreopoem is that we keep it local — by learning local history and presenting the theatre piece where we live (in Massachusetts and Rhode Island), we hope to help people root into their local history and communities.
Stay tuned for announcements about live performances of TRUTH: A bio-fictional choreopoem in 2023.
Photo of Gail Burton and myself at Linden Place in Bristol, RI.
This plaque reads “This Federal Style mansion designed by Russell Warren was built by George DeWeolf in 1810. Money received from the trading of enslaved people funded its construction. The DeWolf family financed 88 slaving voyages accounting for 60 percet of all African voyages originating in Bristol from 1784 to 1807.