Massachusetts Historical Society


Venture Smith & the Island of Slavery


Author: John Wood Sweet, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
Comment: Manisha Sinha, University of Connecticut

This is an online event.

Venture Smith was born in West Africa, sold as a young boy into slavery in New England, and survived to tell his extraordinary story in a Narrative published in 1798. He described how, in early 1754, as a young man enslaved on Fishers Island alongside more than a dozen other captives, he joined a plan to escape. The story of this ill-fated undertaking foreshadows some of the key themes in Venture’s life story—and illuminates how other enslaved New Englanders viewed the prospect of escape, their goals, and their strategies. It also demonstrates how enslavers relied on the public’s help to enforce the racialized boundary between slavery and freedom.

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