Venture Smith’s Colonial Connecticut & Witness Stones Project
Is your school participating in the Witness Stones Project?
Consider using Venture Smith’s Colonial Connecticut (VSCC) to introduce students to topics such as culture, enslavement, and economy in colonial-era Connecticut, as well as provide a rare, real-life example of narrative-writing by a formerly enslaved Connectican.
- VSCC is an interdisciplinary, social studies and ELA-based resource that complements, enhances, and prepares students for the Witness Stones Project (WSP) curriculum.
- VSCC provides an accessible introduction for middle school students to slavery in colonial Connecticut, and it provides a unique narrative model for students.
As the Witness Stones Project Teaching Guide explains, ideally, “students would have letters, diaries, and narratives to use to tell the story of slavery in their communities”; that is, the first-person voice that expresses the authentic lived experience of the people they are studying. Those resources, unfortunately, are extremely limited. Smith’s story is one of those incredibly valuable resources, and it is one of the earliest known African-American autobiographies in Connecticut and the United States. Historians believe Smith’s narrative was largely unmediated and unedited by his amanuensis, meaning that it is a strong representation of how Smith wanted and intended his story to be understood by readers. By reading Smith’s non-fiction, autobiographical account of his enslavement, self-emancipation, and life as a successful farmer and small-scale merchant, students will encounter a powerful example of how Smith—and other enslaved and free people of color—navigated the colonial economy and society. Students can use Smith’s experience to inform their efforts to create the biographical sketches of enslaved individuals they are researching.
Based on feedback from teachers who have already taught VSCC with WSP, Connecticut Explored educators recommend two options for how teachers might incorporate VSCC resources within the larger WSP curriculum:
- as introductory context for the entire curriculum
- as an introduction to the WSP ELA Biography Writing Unit. The WSP Teacher’s Guide offers detailed information about how to implement these combinations in the classroom, including guiding questions linked to WSP’s 5 Themes of Slavery.
For more information about the Witness Stones Project, visit witnessstonesproject.org.