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Local roots of famous freed slave part of Connecticut Freedom Trail

September 5, 2013 Arts & Entertainment, Local News 1 Comment
The descendants of famous freed slave Venture Smith gather at his grave in East Haddam, CT to celebrate his life each September. Photo source: www.venturesmith.net 2009

The descendants of famous freed slave Venture Smith gather at his grave in East Haddam, CT to celebrate his life each September. Photo source: www.venturesmith.net 2009

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. And he has a local connection.

Venture Smith’s grave is one of the original sites on the Connecticut Freedom Trail. Events at the various Freedom Trail sites are held throughout Connecticut in the month of September. To read more about the trail, visit the Web site at http://ctfreedomtrail.org

The 17th annual Venture Smith Day commemoration will be held in the cemetery at the First Church of Christ, 499 Town St. (RT. 151) in East Haddam on Saturday, Sept. 14 from 1 to 4 p.m. as part of the Connecticut Freedom Trail events.

The cemetery located next to the First Church of Christ in East Haddam contains the graves of Venture Smith (1728-1805) and several members of his family.

Smith was captured as a child in Africa and brought to Connecticut, where he was sold as a slave.

Despite being a slave, Smith was able to work at other jobs, and this enabled him to buy his freedom and later, the freedom of his wife and children.

One of his sons served in the American Revolution.

His wife is buried next to him and nearby, is the grave of another son, Solomon, who served in the War of 1812.

Venture’s granddaughter, who died in 1902, is buried here, as well.

These stones are located near the wall next to the church, about halfway back from Route 151.

On Sept. 14, learn about what the inventory of Solomon Smith’s estate tells us about his father (Venture Smith); John Cook’s (Haddam, CT) involvement in John Brown’s raid on Harpers Ferry; and the role Venture’s descendants played in the 29th Connecticut Regiment of Colored Infantry at the Siege of Petersburg, Virginia during the Civil War.

Venture Smith’s family genealogy and artifacts and crafts from Ghana and other regions of Africa will be on display.

A town proclamation will be presented, and a wreath laying ceremony by the descendants of Venture Smith and the annual Venture family reunion photograph will take place in the cemetery by Venture’s grave.

There will be plenty of time to talk with speakers and Venture’s descendants and enjoy light refreshments.

Guest speakers who will talk about their research regarding Venture Smith include:

  • Dr. John W. Sweet, Associate Professor of History, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill;
  • Marta Daniels, author and historian;
  • Cynthia Goetz, Town of Haddam Historian;
  • Dr. Karl P. Stofko, Town of East Haddam Municipal Historian.

Adults and children interested in learning more about Connecticut history in the 1700s and 1800s are encouraged to attend. Please bring lawn chairs or a blanket.

In case of inclement weather, the event will move into the First Church parish house.

Questions? Please call 860-873-9375.

To review the original Venture Smith autobiography, go to www.docsouth.unc.edu/neh/venture2/menu.html

Posted September 5, 2013 based on a press release as edited and added to by HTNP News Editor Brenda Sullivan

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