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DEEP Unveils Sign Honoring Legacy of Venture Smith at Venture’s Farm Site in Barn Island Wildlife Management Area

(HARTFORD)--The Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) recently unveiled a newly installed sign to commemorate Venture Smith, a man enslaved in West Africa around the age of 10 and brought to New England, where he worked for 26 years before buying his own freedom and that of his two sons, his wife, his daughter, and several other Africans.

The land where Venture Smith worked to purchase his freedom, and later would own as a free man, is known as the “Venture Smith Freedom Site,” and is now part of the Barn Island Wildlife Management Area, which is administered and managed by DEEP.

The sign recently unveiled at the site recounts some of Smith’s amazing life story, from how he was enslaved, to his perseverance to buy his freedom and the freedom of others, to how he went on to become an author and prominent businessman in Connecticut, and to dictate his autobiography. In April 2022, the United States Congress recognized April 10 as “Venture Smith Freedom Day.” The resolution states that Venture Smith was the first African American to write and publish his own autobiography and the phrase “my freedom is a privilege which nothing else can equal.”

We are pleased to be able to commemorate Venture Smith’s Freedom Site, now part of Barn Island Wildlife Management Area,” DEEP Commissioner Katie Dykes said. “Venture Smith’s perseverance and triumph over the horrors and injustices of slavery is astounding, as are the later chapters of his life as a businessman, landowner and author. That Barn Island contains this key site in Venture’s life, which symbolizes his freedom and his commitment to the freedom of others, is an important responsibility, and it is our hope that this sign in a small way will help contribute to people’s understanding of Venture Smith and his legacy.”

More about Venture Smith and the Venture Smith Freedom Site:

Two times, according to his Narrative, Venture Smith owned this farm, now part of the Barn Island Wildlife Management Area. Between about 1761 and 1765, while still an enslaved person, he came into possession of the land through a surrogate and “By cultivating this land with the greatest diligence and economy” helped earn enough money to redeem himself (Venture Smith, from his 1798 Narrative). Then, in December 1770, Venture Smith bought 26 acres that included the farm he had previously owned. He sold this land in March 1774. He died on September 19, 1805 at age 76, an American citizen and a respected member of his community.

The Barn Island WMA is open from a half-hour before sunrise to a half-hour after sunset. The Venture Smith Freedom site sign is about a half-mile from the southeast parking area, located off of Stewart Road. It is installed on the urban fire break road (shown in red on this map: BarnIslandTrail2012pdf.pdf (, and located close to the southern boundary line of the 26-acre parcel formerly owned by Venture Smith.
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