The 13th annual Venture Smith Day Festivities will be held at Venture’s gravesite in First Church Cemetery, 499 Town St. (RT. 151), East Haddam on Saturday, Sept. 26, from 1 to 4 p.m., as part of the Connecticut Freedom Trail events.
Son of an African king, Venture Smith became the first black man to document his capture from Africa and life as an American slave and successful black freeman in Connecticut.
Adults and children who are interested in learning more about Connecticut history in the 1700 and 1800s are encouraged to attend.
A brief biography of Venture Smith
Born around 1729, Venture Smith’s African birth name was Broteer, and he was the eldest son of King Saungm Furro of the tribe of Dukandarra in Guinea, West Africa.
He was captured about 1736 when he was seven years old and was sold for “4 gallons of rum and some calico” at Anamabo on Africa’s Gold Coast to Robinson Mumford, the steward of a Rhode Island slave ship.
Broteer was renamed Venture because he was purchased by Mumford’s own private venture.
Venture grew up as a slave on Fishers Island, New York, which was being leased by the Mumford family at that time.
Around 1750, he married Meg, another Mumford slave, and they had four children.
After a failed escape attempt in 1754, Venture was sold to Thomas Stanton of Stonington Point, CT. In 1760, he was purchased for the last time by Oliver Smith, of Stonington. Smith allowed Venture to purchase his freedom in 1765 and in return Venture took the name Smith as his surname.
From his autobiography:
“About the forty-seventh year of my life, I disposed of all my property at Long-Island, and came from thence into East-Haddam: I hired myself out at first to Timothy Chapman, for five weeks, the earnings of which time I put up carefully by me. After this I wrought for Abel Bingham about six weeks. I then put my money together and purchased of said Bingham ten acres of land, lying at Haddam neck, where I now reside.
On this land I labored with great diligence for two years, and shortly after purchased six acres more of land contiguous to my other. One year from that time I purchased seventy acres more of the same man, and paid for it mostly with the produce of my other land. Soon after I bought this last lot of land, I set up a comfortable dwelling house on my farm, and built it from the produce thereof.
Since my residence at Haddam neck, I have owned of boats, canoes and sail vessels, not less than twenty. These I mostly employed in the fishing and trafficking business, and in these occupations I have been cheated out of considerable money by people whom I traded with taking advantage of my ignorance of numbers.”
This year’s events
Andrea Pascal and Dana Hyatt, Social Studies teachers at Nathan Hay-Ray Middle School in East Haddam, will lead their 6th-grade students in reciting poetry from Marilyn Nelson’s book of poems, “The Freedom Business: Connecticut Landscapes through the Eyes of Venture Smith.”
Jennifer Appiah, a native from Ghana and now Connecticut resident, will model traditional African costumes and perform traditional tribal dances with family and friends.
Artifacts and crafts from Ghana and other regions of Africa will be on display and, visitors will be invited to sample native food from Ghana.
East Haddam Municipal Historian, Karl P. Stofko, will tell four new stories from documents recently uncovered about Venture Smith during his life as a freeman in Haddam Neck.
East Haddam writer, Susan R. Waide, will give a sneak preview of the historic fiction children’s book she is writing about Venture Smith’s life in Haddam Neck with his grandchildren.
Please bring a comfortable chair or blanket. In the event of inclement weather, the event will take place in the First Church of Christ, which is next to the cemetery.
There will be plenty of time to renew old friendships, talk with speakers and Venture’s descendants and enjoy light refreshments.
For more information, call 860-873-9375 or 860-873-1404.
Posted Sept. 17,2009
Related links from the HTNP.com Editor:
Africans in America, Part 2 (PBS) http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aia/part2/2p80.html
Venture Smith: the black Paul Bunyon (NPR) http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=6096911
The Venture Smith story: A new documentary follows a team of Hull scientists attempting to trace the history of a famous American slave. (BBC) http://www.bbc.co.uk/humber/content/articles/2007/03/01/venture_smith_feature.shtml
The Narrative of Venture Smith (Scholastic.com) http://www2.scholastic.com/browse/article.jsp?id=4813
Archaeologists unearth tomb of Venture Smith, ‘the black Paul Bunyan’ (USA Today) http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2006-07-28-venturesmith_x.htm
African Americans in Connecticut (Yale University project) http://cmi2.yale.edu/citizens_all/trade/index.html
Artifact: Venture’s Nails (Archaeology.org) http://www.archaeology.org/0705/etc/artifact.html