I just want to quickly point out a great series of posts over at Walking the Berkshires that have been dealing with the history of slavery in the United States and how, for many of us, it intersects with our family trees.
If you haven't yet done so, take a look at what Tim has posted. He has done a quite thorough documentation of slave owners among his ancestors and it really has made me start to review my own research to see what I can find.
As I stated in a comment on one of Tim's posts, this isn't easy to do and some may question why it has to be done at all:
"Discussing "ownership" of past offenses and sins against another race or group of people is a heavy topic. With my family going back to the mid 1600s in this country, I am certain that there were slave owners among my ancestors. When I see behaviors or practices that seem very out of place in modern times, putting them in their historical context does not necessarily make them right or help to explain them away. But one of my goals is to thoroughly research my ancestors and their role in the practice of slavery: how did they acquire slaves? is there any evidence as to how they treated slaves? were they part of social or religious communities that spoke out against the slave trade?
But nothing that I do in the way of research or writing can ever even touch the pain or misery that such a practice has wrought - not only upon those enslaved and their descendants but among those of us who involve ourselves in the "looking back" and sometimes don't like what we see."