Annamaboe Fort (currently called Fort William) as seen today, is located in the fishing town of Anomabo, Ghana.

Documenting VENTURE SMITH Project

 

      The Project was launched on the 200th anniversary of Venture Smith's death, 19 September 2005 by Co-directors David Richardson* (then founding Director of the Wilberforce Institute for the study of Slavery and Emancipation, at the University of Hull, Kinston-upon-Hull, UK) and Chandler B. Saint* (founder and President of the Beecher House Center for the Study of Equal Rights, in Torrington, Connecticut, USA). It has produced 5 books, a CD, a BBC Documentary, 6 conferences, and a traveling exhibition - to date presented in 3 countries and at 7 locations. continued below . . .

 

British Atlantic Slave Trade

​    The rise and fall of transatlantic slavery has defined the modern world. It gave new meaning to concepts of ‘shared history’ as peoples from different cultural backgrounds became entangled in developing the Atlantic slave trade, the largest racially based, oceanic, forced migration in history. continued below . . . 

Venture Smith circa 1729 - 1805

       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 and named VENTURE. continued below  . . .

Annamaboe Fort, Ghana

    This fort was built for one purpose - to sell Africans - to foreign ships' captains, taking the Middle Passage to the Americas where the Africans were sold as slaves. At its peak dawn to dusk, seven days a week, ​every hour, more than one human being was sold into slavery.  continued below . . .

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Image Library at The National Archives, UK

British Atlantic Slave Trade


    Venture’s story is one of the brutality and inhumanity of transatlantic slavery, exemplified by his journey from his homeland via Anomabo and Barbados to Rhode Island, the geographic links between which symbolized the sugar-slavery nexus that dictated the growth of transatlantic slavery. But Venture’s story is also one of hope in the midst of great adversity, as after twenty-six years of bondage in New England, he regained his freedom in 1765, went on to create a family farm and business empire, and before his death  in 1805 became a respected citizen of his community. ​​ Rooted in denials of the humanity of its victims, the slave trade gave birth to racism and racial prejudice. The legacies of such prejudice are still with us today. They are reflected in inequalities of educational opportunities, income and wealth that help to nurture new forms of slavery even now. But the enslaved Africans’ insistence on their humanity through resistance and personal achievement, and its recognition by some in Europe and the Americas, gave birth from the late eighteenth century to an international emancipation movement, that continues today to fight for human rights and social justice for disadvantaged and oppressed peoples around the world. Pivotal to that endeavor is an understanding of both our shared past and our common humanity as we seek to build a better world for all.   

Venture Smith circa 1729 - 1805 


      Taken captive to New England, Venture would spend 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 began a collaboration in business that endured for over thirty years.  The former owner and owned became equals in commerce.
      By dint of hard work, intelligence, and a clear understanding of the economic opportunities of his day, Venture Smith accumulated property and wealth and, with his wife Meg, established a family dynasty that continues to flourish today.  By the time he died in 1805, Venture saw himself as a citizen of the new United States.  His life embodied the struggle for freedom implicit in the revolutionary era in which he lived and the emerging values of liberty upon which it was based.  This is a story of hope and achievement against slavery, of right against wrong.  It transcends race, creed, class, and national boundaries.  It is, in short, a story that even two hundred years after Venture Smith’s death still inspires the international fight for human dignity and equal rights. ​
      The life of  Venture Smith  –  documented in his personal narrative published in 1798 – deserves to be known among all those who value freedom.  It was and remains a truly remarkable story of human dignity and personal and familial accomplishment.  It stands alongside the lives of George Washington and the other founding fathers of the United States in helping us to understand the American Revolution and its meaning for the modern world.  It is an extraordinary testament of the human capacity to defeat institutional and other forms of oppression.                                                               

Annamaboe Fort, Ghana


    The present fort was rebuilt, starting in 1752, by military engineer John Apperly for the Company of Merchants. There had been a previous English fort on the site which was abandoned in the 1730s, while the Royal African Company conducted slave trading from a ship the, Argyle, permanently anchored off shore. 
     We do not know what the remaining fort looked like when Venture was held there in 1739, but believe that some of it became part of the rebuilt fort. The following drawing along with a detailed report of the work was done in in 1756 just before the rebuilding was completed.
     In 1807 the British ended their Atlantic Slave trade and at the same time there was a major battle in Anomabo between the Ashanti and the Fanti empires that significantly destroyed the town and many of its inhabitants and its role in the slave trade. A small amount of slave truing continued, with the last documented voyage in 1839.  In the fifty years between building the current fort and the end of the British trade it is documented that over 445 slave voyages left Anomabo and at least 116,000 individuals were taken from their home in Africa to slavery in the Western Hemisphere. At its peak Anomabo was selling 5 to 7 thousand Africans a year, that is, dawn to dusk, seven days a week, ​every hour more than one human being sold into slavery. 

Documenting VENTURE SMITH Project


*     David Richardson is the co-founder and first director of the Wilberforce Institute for the study of Slavery and Emancipation, and an emeritus professor of Economic History, at the University of Hull. He has published extensively on the transatlantic slave trade and is co-author with David Eltis of the online database www.slavevoyages.org, and the “Atlas of Transatlantic Slavery”, Yale University Press in 2010, which includes evidence relating to over 34,000 transatlantic slaving voyages. He has edited with David Eltis a volume of edited essays, based on this database, entitled “Extending the Frontiers: Essays on the New Transatlantic Slave Trade Database” published by Yale University Press in 2008. 


*    Chandler B. Saint ​is a historian and preservationist who has devoted his recent years to documenting the life and times of Venture Smith and saving his farmsteads. With a Connecticut family legacy dating back more than 300 years, Saint has devoted his life to preserving sites which teach America's story. He is the founder of the Beecher House Society, Inc.  As president of the organization, he has initiated such projects as the reenactment of the historic Lane Debates of 1834 (the first major debates held on abolition), and the Documenting Venture Smith Project. He is the coauthor of Venture Smith-Making Freedom, (2015): coauthor of “Trust and Violence in Atlantic History, The Economic Worlds of Venture Smith”, in Venture Smith and the Business of Slavery and Freedom, Edited by James Brewer Stewart, (UMass Press, 2010); producer of CD The Narrative of an African American: Venture Smith, 1798, (Beecher House Center & WISE, 2010). 


    The Beecher House Society, Inc, a 501 (c) (3) corporation was formed in December 1997.  The mission of the Beecher House Society is to support the reconstruction and restoration of the Wadsworth-Beecher House as a national historic site; and to preserve and carry on the work of the entire Beecher family with the Beecher House Center for the Study of Equal Rights, a national education center focusing on human rights, equal rights, women's issues, anti-slavery actions, and the legacy of the Beecher family and its enduring values and principles. In conjunction with WISE, its principal activity is the Documenting Venture Smith Project.

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