Annual Venture Smith Day to honor son of African King

By Lisa Stone - ReminderNews
East Haddam - posted Tue., Sep. 3, 2013
Dr. Katherine Harris talked about black governors at the Venture Smith Day celebration in 2011. File photo by Kevin Hotary.
Dr. Katherine Harris talked about black governors at the Venture Smith Day celebration in 2011. File photo by Kevin Hotary.

The First Church of Christ in East Haddam is honoring the son of an African King, Venture Smith, on Sept. 14. The 17th annual Venture Smith Day festivities will be held at Smith’s gravesite in the church’s cemetery at 499 Town St. (Route 151) from 1 to 4 p.m.

Smith was the first black man to document his life, starting with his capture from Africa, to his life as an American slave, to a successful black freeman in Connecticut. Smith’s decedents will be at the ceremony to speak about his life. A proclamation is scheduled to be given to acknowledge the day’s event. There will also be a wreath-laying ceremony at his grave.

A storage chest that was passed down to Venture will be on display at the gravesite, brought to the cemetery by the East Haddam Historical Society’s museum. The Historical Society has owned the chest since the 1970s, and will examine the course the chest has taken over the years.

The president of the cemetery, Karl Stofko, said, “I am so sorry that there will be no school children at the ceremony. Slavery is no longer taught in the sixth grade. The students were a part of the event in the prior years. We expect to have at least 100 participants this year. There is a great deal of knowledge to be shared with the people.”

The cemetery is a registered part of the Connecticut Freedom Trail. This is the path that the salves took from the South to the North in search of freedom.  People are invited to bring their lawn chairs or blankets to relax and take in the education of the history of the state from the 1700s to 1800s. Guest speakers include; Cynthia Goetz, town of Haddam historian; Dr. Karl Stofko, town of East Haddam municipal historian; Dr. John W. Sweet, associate professor of history, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; and Marta Daniels, author and historian.

People will also learn about the inventory of the estate of Venture’s son, Solomon Smith. They will discover the involvement that John Cook of Haddam, Conn., had with John Brown’s raid on Harpers Ferry and the role that Venture’s descendants played in the 29th Connecticut Regiment of Colored Infantry at the Siege of Petersburg, Virginia, during the Civil War.

To read the autobiography of Venture Smith, visit the website http://www.docsouth.unc.edu/neh/venture2/menu.html.  For more information about Venture Smith Day, call 860-873-9375.


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