About Venture Smith’s Colonial Connecticut
Venture Smith’s Colonial Connecticut, launched in September 2019, is a social studies and language arts resource designed for use in fifth to eighth grades.
It offers ELA teachers an opportunity to work with two types of non-fiction including Smith’s first person narrative published in 1798.
It is designed to work with the State of Connecticut social studies frameworks for grade 5, “Early United States History” from indigenous peoples here prior to colonization through the American Revolution.
Venture Smith was enslaved in West Africa as a young boy, survived the Middle Passage, and grew up enslaved in Connecticut in the later colonial period. He purchased his freedom and that of his wife and children. When he died in 1805, he had become a successful farmer/trader/fisherman with more than 100 acres of land, buildings, boats, and enterprises in Haddam, Connecticut.
Venture Smith’s life story supports the grade 5 frameworks’ emphasis on “analyzing and evaluating a variety of documents, sources, and perspectives” and the requirement that students consider the following questions (Frameworks, page 63):
- How do Americans define freedom and equality and how have American conceptions of freedom and equality changed over the course of U.S. history for members of various racial, ethnic, religious, and gender minority groups?
- Is America a land of political, economic, and social opportunity?
- What was the significance of Connecticut’s contribution to America’s story?
- Is the United States a “just” society and how has the concept of justice evolved over time?
This resource has several parts which provide teachers with flexibility. Parts I and II are Venture Smith’s narrative, part III is a brief history of colonial Connecticut including the Native Americans, and part IV discusses slavery in this state. You can begin with parts III and IV to provide context for Venture’s arrival in the American colonies in the second half of the colonial period. Or, you can begin with Venture’s own story in order to give students a sense of the challenges as lived by a real person in colonial America, especially for an enslaved—and, later, free—person of color.
This resource works in conjunction with other parts of website, where educators will find more detailed curriculum connections, teacher guides, and curriculum materials, and where students will find links to a primary-source library to support inquiry projects.
WHAT KIDS ARE SAYING about Venture Smith’s Colonial Connecticut!
Piloted in 2018/2019, 5th grade class
This book is good because it tells us what life was like back in our own state of Connecticut. Venture Smith was a very hard working man. I liked learning about his family. You also did a good job describing everything. You also did a great job putting the dates of when every event occurred. Colonial times were very tough.
It tells about the history of our state and that helps us learn more about it. How I know this is because before me and my classroom read your book about Venture Smith most of us thought slavery wasn’t happening in Connecticut.
I think it is a great book about Smith’s life. It was even better to know that this all happened in our own state.
Piloted in 2018/2019, 7th grade class
Part of learning about people (at least for me) is being able to put myself in to their shoes and understand why they did what they did and how difficult it was for them to do it. … One more amazing thing about your book is that it kept me interested all the way through. … You made it so that I wanted to keep learning about him and learn more.”
When reading the book I was amazed at all of the tragedies that happened to him and how he changed and succeeded through it all.
I think that when writing a book for this age group, making the story easy to understand plays a big role. I think that you did this very well and that anyone that is in this age group could understand this and will have a lot more knowledge on this topic after reading this. I appreciate that you made the parts that Venture said in bold and the parts that you wrote in normal text.
It’s really helpful to have an exact copy of Venture’s words. … It’s reassuring that he wrote this himself and that none of it got changed by inferences. I also quite like the fact that you added in additional information in parts 3 and 4 on the different events that took place at that time. … Lastly, I would like to show my appreciation for the brief summaries at the beginning of each chapter. It helped sum up some of the hard stuff and was very helpful.
While reading Venture’s story I was constantly hooked.
You wrote the book in a way that is simple and easy to understand.
With having different topics you can learn more … and know more things. It also doesn’t talk just about Venture … you were saying how other people lived as slaves and that was very cool how you added that.
I also enjoyed how you added many images because it allowed me to make a connection with the text, for example the topological map helped me understand where in our area he had lived. Another thing that helped me understand slavery in Connecticut and other areas were the charts and graphs.
I learned that even in the North where there weren’t huge plantations that the slaves had to work extremely hard or suffer cruel punishments.
I also learned a lot about slavery and was sometimes surprised about some of the things that were not as I thought they were.
One of my favorite parts was chapter 22, when you are showing why Venture’s story is important.
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