Venture Smith's 1798 Autobiography
On Haddam Neck, in 1798 Venture Smith dictated his life story, one of the first works of African American literature, to a family member. He first recounted his birth, capture, enslavement in Africa, and the Middle Passage, stories he had told for years, then related events from his life in America. The Project believes a son, probably Solomon, organized the pamphlet and he wrote the Prologue, to honor their father, and to preserve Venture’s legacy.
Edward Smith, the son of Venture’s last owner, Col. Oliver Smith, who Venture and Solomon did business with, helped prepare the Certificate. It is signed by five prominent men of Stonington, Connecticut who had known Venture for more than 25 years. The draft was then taken to The Bee (New London, Connecticut) for printing.
This is an entirely African American literary voice, a treasured document, written, recorded, edited, and printing paid for by African Americans in the 18th c..
Listen to Robert L. Hall and Congresswoman Rosa L. DeLauro reading the Narrative: