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A white Southern Republican, a black Southern Democrat and a white Northern Democrat walk into an event on race relations …

It sounds like the beginning of an amusing, yet unlikely, story. But in this case, it’s true. Reps. Spencer Bachus, R-Ala., Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., and David Cicilline, D-R.I., are heading to the Reserve Officers Association at 1 Constitution Ave. NE on Tuesday evening for a screening of the documentary “Traces of the Trade: A Story From the Deep North.” The movie will be followed by a discussion on race, culture and the legacy of the Civil War for the North and South.

The event is part of the Congressional Conversations on Race project put together by the Faith & Politics Institute and Search for Common Ground, in partnership with the Tracing Center on Histories and Legacies of Slavery.

As the country observes the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation and gears up for the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, the organizations hope bringing together members of Congress and staff can help address the “unfinished business of slavery,” as Katrina Browne, producer/director of “Traces of the Trade,” put it. That is, “the cultural divide between the whites in the North and South,” she told HOH.

Browne’s film examines her own family’s ties to slavery. She is a descendant of the DeWolf family, a Rhode Island clan that during the late 18th and early 19th centuries was the largest slave-trading family in the United States.

Browne sees the legacy of racial injustice thrown primarily toward the South, ignoring the North’s connection to the slave economy. Such focus, she says, prevents an honest assessment of racial and political relations in the country.

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