Tom DeWolf and Sharon Morgan arrive at Richmond, Va., their last stop on a road trip through 21 states spanning 6,000 miles. Outside the Manchester Docks on the James River, DeWolf wants to show Morgan the Slave Trail, which he saw two years earlier with colleagues from Coming to the Table.

But Morgan, appearing instantly disturbed, refuses. She expresses her horror, mentioning the darkness of the canopy of trees above, the blood that had been shed on the very ground she would step on. Morgan’s discomfort was palpable, but she would go and partake in what would be another stop of her healing journey from the trauma of the legacy of slavery.

“I look through the tunnel of time and recoil at the absolute agony of the people who were brought to this place, stripped of their humanity, and reduced to beasts of burden,” Morgan said of her experience at the Slave Trail.

DeWolf, a white male and descendant of the largest slave-owning family in US history, and Morgan, a black female and descendant of a line of slaves from both sides of her family, compiled their travels, dialogue, opinions and hardships in their coauthored novel, “Gather at the Table.”

DeWolf and Morgan underwent a three year journey, chronicling their experiences together as the son of a slave trade and daughter of slavery, animating their story for Fairfield students and faculty at the jam-packed Aloysius P. Kelley Center on Tuesday night. Pictures, film clips, road trip footage and animated reenactments of their time spent together brought the dialogue of race to the forefront of everyone’s mind as the audience listened to the authors’ “meaningful platonic relationship with someone of the ‘other’ side.”

Sophomore Yenny Rua said, “Reading the book beforehand, it was powerful seeing the clips and pictures they provided. It brought their story to life.”

Freshman Tyler Paci agreed with Rua, and said, “It was great how they were able to incorporate all backgrounds into their story and make it so everyone could make a personal connection, not just if you are black or white.”

Before DeWolf and Morgan even met, they each expressed their own interests in genealogy and discussions about racism.

Morgan grew up in Chicago, though her family is from the South – Mississippi and Alabama. In 1969,  the year her son was born, Morgan first became interested in genealogy. “I wanted to find out where I came from and provide that legacy to my son. The only thing I could pass on was the resilience I knew had come from our history as slaves,” Morgan said.

This began Morgan’s healing journey, traveling thousands of miles tracing ancestors and living relatives, spending hours in centuries-old cemeteries, filing through court documents and culminating in her creation, Our Black Ancestry, in 2007, a website dedicated to helping African-Americans find their own healing journeys within history.

On the other hand, DeWolf joked that “into his fifties, he was still figuring out what he wanted to be when he grew up.” He was exposed to his family’s history first in 1986 when he visited the Linden House in Bristol, R.I. It was built by his relative George DeWolf in 1810.The DeWolfs were responsible for the transportation of more than 10,000 slaves. His research led to his first book, “Inheriting the Trade,” published in 2001 and subsequent Emmy-nominated documentary, “Traces of the Trade: A Story of the Deep North,” released in 2008.

At a Summer Peacebuilding Institute in June 2008 at Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, Va., DeWolf and Morgan would begin for them what would turn in to be a lifelong journey and dialogue about racism. But they did not immediately hit it off upon meeting; DeWolf said Morgan seemed “guarded,” while Morgan felt DeWolf’s eye contact was like “he was looking right through me.”

Their initial difficulties in starting a conversation, as well as forming a friendship, stemmed from their racial differences. From this, their story developed and is what Dr. Jocelyn Boryczka hoped would inspire students. “I don’t think people know how to talk about race. They need opportunities to do so. It’s not always a casual conversation, so an engaged dialogue like this is helpful to connect us.”

Throughout Morgan and DeWolf’s journey, they encountered several instances of struggle. The Slave Trail, for example, was the number one exporter of slaves domestically, exporting 1.2 million between 1830-1860 alone. This was a pivotal moment for Morgan, who said she felt “pervasive sadness.”

“Racism absolutely must be strangled out of existence,” Morgan said passionately.

But, both Morgan and DeWolf agreed there were many benefits to undergoing this experience together. “There’s healing in the knowing,” Morgan said. This inspired several audience members, including Ann Reeves, a former adjunct professor at Fairfield and member of CTTT, to continue tracing her own genealogy and connections to the slave trade.

Morgan and DeWolf even highlighted the prevalent racial disparities present today, citing statistics as recent as December 2013, unemployment rate for blacks was at 11.6 percent, as opposed to whites which was only 5.7 percent. Across the room, many students and faculty looked shocked at the statistics provided. Sophomore Nick Frega said, “Because we’re so sheltered and unaware, it [talking about race] becomes more difficult. Stuff like this is made to happen so we all can be more comfortable with interracial friendships. These discussions help that to happen.”

While Frega and Rua agreed unanimously about the benefits DeWolf’s and Morgan’s speech brought to Fairfield, DeWolf commented that Fairfield had taught him and Morgan something as well. “A lot of times colleges are just looking to fill a spot, but it’s evident that Fairfield is deeply committed to a conversation on race.” Sharon added, “Seeing all those earnest young faces out in the audience … [the feeling] was palpable.”

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