Venture Smith and the Business of Slavery and Freedom
James Brewer Stewart
Univ of Massachusetts Press, 2010 - Biography & Autobiography - 279 pages
"A stunning collection. Venture Smith is a very important historical figure; his memoir is the only first-person source that narrates the entire arc of an African American's life from childhood in Africa through enslavement and emancipation to old age in North America. This volume will serve as a model of how collaborative and cross-disciplinary research can unpack a single documentary source to reveal a rich and intersecting array of insights into the meaning of a distant historical life in its own context as well as its meaning for our own lives and times."---Joanne Melish, author of Disowning Slavery: Gradual Emancipation and Race in New England
This book originated in the summer of 2006, in the burial ground of the First Church of Christ, Congregational, of East Haddam, Connecticut, where a team of forensic scientists began excavating the graves of two emancipated slaves, Venture Smith (d. 1805) and his wife, Marget (d. 1809). Those requesting this remarkable disinterment were the Smiths' direct descendants, members of the eighth, ninth, tenth, and eleventh generations, who were determined to honor the bicentennial of their founding ancestor's death by discovering everything possible about his life. Opening burial plots in the hope of recovering DNA for genealogical tracing proved a compelling first step.
But what began as a scientific inquiry into African origins rapidly evolved into an unparalleled interdisciplinary collaboration between historians, literary analysts, geographers, genealogists, anthropologists, political philosophers, genomic biologists, and, perhaps most revealingly, a poet. Their common goal has been to reconstruct the life of an extraordinary African American and to assay its implications for the sprawling, troubled eighteenth-century world of racial exploitation over which he triumphed. This volume displays the rich results of that collaboration.
A highly intelligent, deeply self-motivated and immensely energetic slave transported from Africa, Venture Smith transformed himself through unstinting labor into a respectable Connecticut citizen, a successful entrepreneur, and the liberator of other enslaved African Americans. As James O. Horton emphasizes in his foreword to this volume, "Venture Smith's saga is a gift to all who seek to understand the complex racial beginnings of America. It helps to connect the broad American story with the stories of many Americans whose lives illustrate the national struggle to live out the national ideals."
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The African Background of Venture Smith
The Economic Worlds
Venture Smith and the Law of Slavery
Land and Liberty in the Life
Venture Smith One of a Kind
Money Love and Privacy in the Narrative
Venture Smith and Philosophical Theories of Human Rights
The Freedom Business
Notes on Contributors
Accra advertisement African American Akwamu Akyem ancestry Anomabu Asante Atlantic Barbados British Charming Susanna chromosome colonial Connecticut court David Richardson descendents Dukandarra early East Haddam economic eighteenth century Elisha Niles Emancipation England enslaved Africans Equiano essay family tree Fante father Files freedom Furro genetic genome George George Mumford Gold Coast gravestone Gronniosaw Haddam Neck History HTLR human identity human rights Isham James Rogers labor land lineages living London Long Island Lovejoy manumission master minkisi mortgage mtDNA named Narra nation negro NLC CC North Olaudah Equiano Oliver Smith owner pawnship person political pounds purchased real-estate Records region Rhode Island runaway ship slave trade slavery Smith's account social Society sold Solomon Stonington story Thomas Stanton tion tive town transactions transatlantic University Press Vassa Venture Smith Venture Smith's Narrative Vincent Carretta voyage West wife Y chromosome York