Thursday, February 5, 2015

Travel: On Slavery’s Doorstep in Ghana

By Russell Shorto
Jasir Robert Ryan-Lee, a descendant of Venture Smith, looks out to the shore from the roof of the fort in Anomabo, Ghana, where his ancestor was held as a slave, then taken to a ship through its Door of No Return.
GHANA---Mandred Henry was a health care sales rep from Hartford whom people often stopped on the street, saying he was a dead ringer for Morgan Freeman. As a child he heard stories from his father of a distant ancestor who grew up among a cattle-herding tribe in West Africa in the 1700s. That ancestor, Venture Smith, was a colossus of a man, physically and otherwise, who defied slavery at its very height, becoming a landowner and businessman in the early days of the American republic. Mandred Henry, who died in 2007, never made it, but last September three of his children, along with a granddaughter and a great-grandson, did, in a remarkable trip that took them to the slave fort where their ancestor was held and that culminated in a ceremonial gathering with the elders of the village where he was sold into slavery. [link]

Venture Smith’s tombstone at First Congregational Church cemetery in East Haddam, Conn., in a Smith family plot. Credit American Cultural Specialists, Torrington, CT