Venture Smith

Venture Smith books and biography

Venture Smith

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Venture Smith (1729 - 1805) was an African slave brought to the American colonies as a child. His history was documented when he gave a narrative of his life to a schoolteacher, who wrote it down and published it under the title A Narrative of the Life and Adventures of Venture, a Native of Africa: But Resident above Sixty Years in the United States of America, Related by Himself.

Venture Smith was born Broteer Furro in Dukandarra, Guinea. He was the son of a prince who had several wives. At the age of six he was kidnapped by a tribe of Africans who were employed by white slave dealers. The young boy was purchased by Robert Mumford for four gallons of rum and a piece of calico. Mumford decided to call him Venture because he considered purchasing him to be a business venture. Venture's ship then set sail for the island of Barbados.


Life as a slave in colonial America

Venture relays in his narrative that by the time of the ship's arrival in Barbados over sixty of the original 260 slaves on board had died of smallpox during the trip. Some of the surviving slaves were sold to planters on Barbados, but Venture and a few others were sent to Rhode Island, where they arrived around 1737. Venture then went to live at Mumford's residence on Fishers Island in Connecticut. Once there, he worked in the household and as he grew older endured harder tasks and more severe punishments.

At the age of twenty-two, Venture married another slave named Meg. Shortly thereafter, he made an escape attempt after an Irish indentured servant named Heddy convinced him to take flight. During their trip Heddy stole provisions in Long Island and Venture turned him in. He was returned to his master.

In 1752, Venture and Meg welcomed their daughter Hannah. Less than a month later Venture was separated from his family when he was sold to Thomas Stanton in Stonington, Connecticut. They were reunited the following year when Stanton bought Meg and Hannah. Venture had begun saving money he earned from outside jobs and by selling produce he grew. He hoped to buy freedom for his family.

Venture and Meg welcomed two more children, Solomon in 1756 and Cuff in 1758. Venture was sold twice more, and in 1760 he ended up with Colonel Oliver Smith, who would eventually grant the slave his freedom. The colonel agreed to let Venture work for money when his labor was not required at home. In gratitude, he took Oliver Smith's last name for himself and his family.

Finally, in 1765, Venture Smith purchased his freedom for seventy-one pounds and two shillings.

Life as a freeman

Smith moved to Long Island and sought to liberate his entire family. In 1769, after cutting wood and living frugally for four years, Smith purchased his sons, Solomon and Cuff. He then purchased a black slave for sixty pounds, but the man ran away before repaying Smith.

Smith suffered his first tragedy as a freeman when Solomon died from scurvy on a whaling expedition in 1773. However, that same year Smith purchased his wife Meg, who was pregnant, from Thomas Stanton. When the child was born he was named Solomon, in memory of his deceased brother. With the purchase of his daughter Hannah in 1775, Venture Smith had freed his entire family.

Cuff Smith served as a soldier in the revolution for one year and seven months in Captain Caleb Baldwin's Company during the period 1781-1783.

Venture Smith spent the remainder of his life in East Haddam, Connecticut, on a farm that he bought in 1776. He made a living by fishing, whaling, farming his land, and trading on the Solomon River, located near his residence. In 1798, Smith relayed his life experiences to a Connecticut school teacher and Revolutionary War veteran Elisha Niles, who published it. The narrative is the subject of some contention, regarded in many instances as "whitewashed" and inauthentic. It was suspected that the white editor had manipulated Smith's story, a common practice among editors of slave narratives. Venture Smith died in 1805.

Smith (or his editor) claimed that he was well over six feet tall, weighed 300 pounds, and carried a nine pound axe for felling trees. From these and other elements of his life, Smith became known as the black Paul Bunyan, although unlike Paul Bunyan, he was a real person.

DNA Project

During the summer of 2006 and with permission of over a dozen of his living descendants, scientists dug up Smith's grave to look for artifacts and take DNA samples from the remains of Venture Smith. This will be compared with DNA taken from communities on the West coast of Africa. The hope is that his history and background can be better understood. The effort hit a snag when Nancy Barton, a disbarred Connecticut lawyer with no relation to the family, filed legal action to stop the dig, claiming it was disrespectful to Smith's memory. Family members are fighting the action, claiming Smith would want his true story told.[1]


  1. ^ Apuzzo, Matt. "Archaeologists unearth slave tomb, seeking legend", The Virginian-Pilot (Associated Press story), July 30, 2006, p.A12-A13. Retrieved on 2006-07-30.

This article might use material from a Wikipedia article, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.

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