Torrington Historical Society Celebrates Black History Month with Venture Smith

The Torrington Historical Society and the Documenting Venture Smith Project are pleased to present the exhibit “Making Freedom, The Life of Venture Smith: In His Own Voice” . “Making Freedom”, which is being presented in conjunction with Black History Month, tells the story of Venture Smith, an African who was captured and brought to New England in the 1730s. Smith endured decades of slavery before purchasing his freedom and the freedom of his family. “Making Freedom” will be on view in the Torrington Historical Society Carriage House, 192 Main Street, from Wednesday, February 3rd through Saturday, February 27th. Hours for the exhibit are Wednesday through Saturday from 12-4 p.m. Admission is free.

Canoe Leaving Fort at Anomabo

This exhibition draws from Venture Smith’s autobiography, A Narrative of the Life and Adventures of Venture, a Native of Africa, which was published in 1798. Additional research on Venture’s life was done by Chandler B. Saint, the author of Making Freedom: The Extraordinary Life of Venture Smith, and Robert P. Forbes, author of The Missouri Compromise and its Aftermath: Slavery and the Meaning of America. This exhibition is also currently on view at the Hartford Public Library and in the future, will be exhibited at other venues, including the Smithsonian Institution.

Born in Africa as Broteer Furro, enslaved, and taken as a youth to be sold at Anomabo on the coast of what today is Ghana, the young African was bought in 1739 as a ‘venture’ by a Rhode Island slave ship’s officer, who was the son of one of the merchant dynasties of that region. Taken captive to New England, Venture spent the next quarter-century in slavery under three different owners before buying his freedom in 1765 from his final owner, Col. Oliver Smith, from whom he took his surname. After almost five years as master and slave, Oliver and Venture collaborated in a business that endured for over thirty years. The former owner and slave became equals in commerce. Venture eventually established a substantial property on the Connecticut River in Haddam Neck where he lived with his family until his death in 1805.

Making Freedom” traces the life of Venture Smith from his childhood in Africa, his enslavement and the brutal Middle Passage to the West Indies and Rhode Island, his more than two decades in slavery in New England and Long Island, and his long struggle to regain his freedom.

This exhibition, produced by the Documenting Venture Smith Project, is an international effort founded in 2005 and designed to bring public attention to the life of Venture Smith, to the slave trade of the Atlantic world, and to the continuing tragedy of contemporary slavery.

In addition to Saint, who is president of the Beecher House Center for the Study of Equal Rights in Torrington, and Forbes, the project is co-directed by David Richardson, former director of the Wilberforce Institute for the Study of Slavery and Emancipation at the University of Hull in Great Britain.

While Venture Smith was clearly an extraordinary individual, his experiences are remarkably representative of almost every aspect of the Atlantic slave system, despite the fact that he never traveled further south than the south shore of Long Island.

For more area information www.litchfieldhills.com

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