People & Events
1729 - 1805
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Venture Smith, born free in Africa but captured and enslaved at the age of eight, became a figure of mythical proportions in New England, where he was known for his great size and strength.
Named Broteer by his father, a "Prince of the tribe of Dukandarra" in Guinea, he wrote that "I was descended from a very large, tall and stout race of beings, much larger than the generality of people in other parts of the globe." Legend has it that he was a giant, weighing over 300 pounds.
Venture's great size and unwillingness to suffer insult made him a problem for his owners, and he was sold several times before he was able to purchase his freedom in 1765, at the age of thirty-six. When Venture wrote that he had "lost much by misfortunes and paid an enormous sum for my freedom," he was referring to far more than his purchase price of "seventy-one pounds two shillings."
Venture was eventually able to liberate his two sons, Solomon and Cuff, his daughter Hanna, his pregnant wife Meg, and their unborn child. Solomon, the eldest son, died aboard a whaling ship, and the new baby was named Solomon in his honor. Cuff, the middle son, enlisted in the Continental army when he was in his early twenties. After the war, he returned to his family in East Haddam Neck, Connecticut.
In his latter years, Venture suffered from blindness and ill health. In 1798, a narrative of his life, which he related to a local schoolteacher, was published. He died on September 19, 1805, at the age of seventy-seven.
Image Credit: From the collections of the Library of Congress
Venture Smith's narrative
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