History Lessons

Jul 22, 2020

By Debra Bruno, for the Washington Post

After writer Debra discovered that her Dutch ancestors had enslaved people in New York, she connected with a descendant of those who were enslaved.

Here, in the branches of my family tree, was incontrovertible evidence that my Dutch ancestors weren’t just innocent farmers. That I was the descendant of people who enslaved others. How could this be? Growing up in the North, I’d rarely thought about slavery, and the civil rights struggles of the 1960s seemed as distant as the moon landing. But suddenly, slavery was as real as the rolling hills beside the Hudson River that flowed past my parents’ home. Suddenly, my sense of Northern disengagement from our country’s original sin was snapped away.

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