Complicity, How the North Promoted, Prolonged, and Profited from Slavery, by Anne Farrow, Joel Lang, and Jenifer Frank of The Hartford Courant – A Comprehensive Review by Gene Kizer, Jr., Part Six, Chapter Three: A Connecticut Slave

A Comprehensive Review of

How the North Promoted, Prolonged, and Profited from Slavery 
by Anne Farrow, Joel Lang, and Jenifer Frank
of The Hartford Courant
Part Six
Chapter Three: A Connecticut Slave
by Gene Kizer, Jr.
British-Slave-Fort-CHAP-THREE 49K

At the end of this article beneath the notes I have cited is "Actual Citation from Book," Complicity's notes from Chapter Three.

A CONNECTICUT SLAVE opens with a New England slave owner beating a black slave woman with her fists. The slave's husband rushes to her aid and receives blows from a whip.

This chapter is about Venture Smith who "was captured in Africa, shipped to Rhode Island, and bought, beaten, and sold in colonial Connecticut where there were 5,000 others like him."1

New England by the 1750s and "other Northern colonies were already becoming wealthy feeding slaves on the sugar plantations that covered the islands of the West Indies. The trade system that swept those Africans into permanent bondage also carried thousands of other Africans into forced labor in the American colonies."2

Before 1776 "there were tens of thousands of people in bondage in the Northern United States." 3

In the 1790s, New York alone "had more than 20,000."4

A historian in the late 1800s wrote: "'Connecticut had little to apologize for in her treatment of the Negro,'" but the truth was more like what happened to "Cato, Newport, and Adam."5

In 1758, a future governor "sentenced the three 'to be publicly whipped on the naked body for nightwalking after nine in the evening without an order from their masters.'"6

Slaves in the North were denigrated, faced hard punishment and fear:

They served at the whim of their owners and could be sold or traded. They were housed in unheated attics and basements, in outbuildings and barns. They often slept on the floor, wrapped in coarse blankets. They lived under a harsh system of 'black codes' that controlled their movements, prohibited their education, and limited their social contacts. Laws governing the rights and behaviors of slaves varied slightly from colony to colony, but they were updated in reaction to each new real or perceived threat. The two defining assumptions of all the codes were that blacks were dangerous in groups and that they were, at a basic human level, inferior.7

Venture Smith suffered greatly but overcame it all to achieve great success. He dictated his story to Elisha Niles, "a school teacher and Revolutionary War soldier." It was published in 1798 in New London, Connecticut and is "one of only a handful of surviving black narratives encompassing life in Africa and colonial enslavement."

Other accounts of slavery, much more recent, come from Zora Neale Hurston, the black anthropologist who wrote Barracoon, The Story of the Last Black Cargo and other books.

A barracoon is a slave fort on the coast of Africa where New England slave traders, and the British before them, pulled up their ships and hauled off the unfortunate black captives of incessant tribal warfare. Black tribal chieftains made slavery easy for the New Englanders and Brits.

Hurston at first believed the slave ships pulled up and a crew member waved a red handkerchief and the curious Africans went on board to see what it was, and were captured.

She was devastated to find out that her own people had sold her ancestors into slavery to face the Middle Passage.

She goes into great detail about how Cudjoe Lewis and his relatives were  captured by women warriors. Their tribe was just about wiped out. Survivors were forced to march in slave coffles for days. Their captors stopped to smoke the severed heads of their murdered relatives on poles because they had begun to stink.

Hurston interviewed Lewis in the early 20th century. He had been sold off of a slave ship in Alabama in 1865, the last year of the War Between the States.

New Englanders vigorously carried on the slave trade through most of the antebellum period despite it being outlawed by the U.S. Constitution in 1808.

In 1862, a year into the war, according to W.E.B DuBois, Boston and New York were the largest slave trading ports on the planet.

Before the war:

New York City's bustling seaport became the hub of an enormously lucrative illegal slave trade. Manhattan shipyards built ships to carry captive Africans, the vessels often outfitted with crates of shackles and with the huge water tanks needed for their human cargo. A conservative estimate is that during the illegal trade's peak years, 1859 and 1860, at least two slave ships---each built to hold between 600 and 1,000 slaves---left lower Manhattan every month.8

Venture Smith "was raised Broteer Furro in the west of Africa."9

West Africa was a "battleground with thousands kidnapped and sold into slavery every year." It had been this way since the sixteenth century "when Africans were first stolen to provide labor in the New World."10

Along the coast of West Africa

were about 40 'slave castles,' or 'slave factories,' that were, in effect, warehouses, established largely by Europeans, where traders from Europe and the colonies could select and buy captive human beings.11

Venture was eight when knocked on the head with the barrel of a gun. He watched his father tortured to death. He and the survivors "were dragged hundreds of miles to a coastal factory" then held for sale.

A British surgeon described the Cape Coast Castle like this:

'In the Area of this Quadrangle, are large Vaults, with an iron Grate at the Surface to let in Light and Air on those poor Wretches, the Slaves, who are chained and confined there til a Demand comes. They are all marked with a burning Iron upon the right Breast.'12

Venture became the property of a Rhode Island family, the Mumfords who

were quintessential Triangle Trade entrepreneurs: they commanded slave trade ships, owned farms where enslaved blacks worked, and sold captives in the West Indies and American colonies.13

There was a city nearby on Africa's Gold Coast named Mumford.

Venture had been sold for "a piece of calico cloth and four gallons of rum."14

Mortality on the Middle Passage was high "among the captives, pinioned cheek by jowl with the dead and dying" and could be "15 to 20 percent." Sixty of the 260 on Venture's slave ship died of smallpox.15

Another slave, Sojourner Truth, "was sold, beaten, and abused in New York, and she saw her parents die of hunger and cold there."16 She and her family lived in the cellar of Colonel Johannes Hardenburgh. She was sold at age nine for $100:

'They gave her plenty to eat,' she recalled in her third-person narrative, 'and also plenty of whippings.' One Sunday morning, Sojourner's owner beat the child severely, until blood streamed from her wounds. 'And now,' she says, 'when I hear 'em tell of whipping women on the bare flesh, it makes my flesh crawl, and my very hair rise on my head! Oh! My God!'17

A slave running away "baffled most slave owners, who believed blacks, as inferior and passive, were naturally suited to slavery."18

Venture "ran away from the Mumfords' Fishers Island property with two other enslaved black men and a white indentured servant named Joseph Heday, who had devised the plan." Smith states:

'We privately collected out of our master's store, six great old cheeses, two firkins of butter, and one whole batch of new bread. When we had gathered all our clothes and some more, we took them all about midnight, and went to the boat, embarked, and then directed our course for the Mississippi.'19

The white man ran off with the gear and was chased and caught by the three blacks but they all decided to go back and confess. The white man was supposedly punished and Venture was sold away from his family to Thomas Stanton though Stanton eventually bought his family.

There were violent episodes with Venture Smith and the Stantons. Smith was a big man and strong. He fought back when treated bad so the Stantons gave up and sold Smith to be rid of him.

Slaves often resisted in various ways but some turned to murder:

As early as 1708, a New York couple and their three children were murdered by the family's two slaves. In New Jersey, a slave struck off his owner's head with an axe, and in Newport, Rhode Island, a black man murdered the white woman who had beaten him. Connecticut's colonial diarist Joshua Hempstead wrote of the New London slave who slipped ratsbane into the family "coffy." Other poisonings or attempts to poison owners appear frequently in records."20

Slavery had become "indispensable" for the North. Northern slaves

had to adapt to the diverse requirements of their owner's household, or farm, or other business. Slaves in the North worked in agriculture and in the maritime trades, but they also had tasks as varied as operating printing presses, shoeing horses, and constructing houses and barns.21

Joshua Hempstead's long-time slave, Adam, must have enjoyed his work and gotten along well with his owner. Hempstead wrote about Adam who

worked on his land in New London and Stonington for 40 years, labored all day, every day. Hempstead mentions Adam's threshing hay and wheat, tending livestock, building and repairing stone walls, cutting wood, harvesting apples and other crops, fixing broken wagons and farm equipment, and carting loads of seaweed.22

At thirty-six, Venture Smith said "I left Col. Smith once for all. . . . I had already been sold three times, made considerable money with seemingly nothing to derive [from it], . . . lost much by misfortunes, and paid an enormous sum for my freedom."23

It took him ten years but he bought his family, sons first so they could help earn enough for the others. One son, Cuff, fought for the colonists in the American Revolution and another, Solomon, was lost to scurvy.

Venture Smith ended up doing well. His son, Cuff, "worked with his father on Long Island, farming, chopping wood, fishing for eels and lobsters, and making a homestead. They owned a 30-ton sloop and used it to ferry wood to Rhode Island; this was one of Venture's most lucrative endeavors."24

Smith "eventually owned several dwellings and boats, and had substantial landholdings. 'My temporal affairs were in a pretty prosperous condition.' he said."25

Smith "moved to Haddam Neck on the Connecticut River, establishing a homestead on 100 riverfront acres. He made enough money farming, fishing, and shipping wood to buy several other black men, expecting that they would repay their purchase price and then begin their own lives in freedom."26

He died in 1805.


Next Week:
A Comprehensive Review of
How the North Promoted, Prolonged, and Profited from Slavery
by Anne Farrow, Joel Lang, and Jenifer Frank
of The Hartford Courant
Part Seven
Chapter Four: Rebellion in Manhattan


(Click Here to go to last week's blog article:

Complicity, How the North Promoted, Prolonged, and Profited from Slavery, by Anne Farrow, Joel Lang, and Jenifer Frank of The Hartford Courant - A Comprehensive Review by Gene Kizer, Jr., Part Five, Chapter Two: First Fortunes)


(Scroll down for:
Complicity, Actual Citation from Book)

1 Anne Farrow, Joel Lang, and Jenifer Frank, Complicity, How the North Promoted, Prolonged, and Profited from Slavery (New York: Ballantine Books, Copyright 2005 by The Hartford Courant Company), 60-61.

2 Farrow, Lang, Frank, Complicity, 61.

3 Farrow, Lang, Frank, Complicity, 62.

4 Ibid.

5 Farrow, Lang, Frank, Complicity, 63.

6 Ibid.

7 Ibid.

8 Farrow, Lang, Frank, Complicity, xxviii.

9 Farrow, Lang, Frank, Complicity, 63.

10 Farrow, Lang, Frank, Complicity, 64.

11 Ibid.

12 Farrow, Lang, Frank, Complicity, 64-65.

13 Farrow, Lang, Frank, Complicity, 65.

14 Ibid.

15 Ibid.

16 Farrow, Lang, Frank, Complicity, 67.

17 Farrow, Lang, Frank, Complicity, 66.

18 Farrow, Lang, Frank, Complicity, 68.

19 Ibid.

20 Farrow, Lang, Frank, Complicity, 71.

21 Ibid.

22 Ibid.

23 Farrow, Lang, Frank, Complicity, 73.

24 Ibid.

25 Farrow, Lang, Frank, Complicity, 74.

26 Ibid.

Actual Citation from Book

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  1. Pingback: Complicity, How the North Promoted, Prolonged, and Profited from Slavery, by Anne Farrow, Joel Lang, and Jenifer Frank of The Hartford Courant - A Comprehensive Review by Gene Kizer, Jr., Part Seven, Chapter Four: Rebellion in Manhattan - "Everyone s

  2. Thank you for all of the good reading and research. 1000’s of hours. I am an advocate for true and full history. And the actual Country proudly known as the Confederate States of America has been getting a bad rap for more than 150 years.This is great info to repudiate the ones who create assumptions and crack the ones with closed minds. Bottom line is that we all lost something during the War of Northern Aggression. Enough of the sweeping info under the rug. Thanks.. Ben.

    • Ben,

      That’s exactly right! We’ll take it right to them. It’s all out there and easy to document.

      It will be done by independent historians. The politicization of history in academia and the news media since the 1960s has destroyed both of them as credible, truthful institutions.

      The only people who still believe them are their own delusional members.

      Thanks for writing!


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