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US congress recognises contribution of Wilberforce Institute

US Congress has recognised the work of the University of Hull’s Wilberforce Institute for the study of Slavery and Emancipation in the campaign to proclaim a day honouring a former enslaved person and Black autobiographer, Venture Smith.

Recently US Representative Rosa L DeLauro and US Senator Richard Blumenthal introduced resolutions to honour the life and legacy of Venture Smith, who purchased his family’s freedom and became a successful landowner, businessperson, and author in Connecticut.

US representative Rosa DeLauro has recognised the importance of the Wilberforce Institute’s support and has written to Professor Susan Lea, Vice-Chancellor at the University of Hull, acknowledging the “invaluable” contribution of the Wilberforce Institute.

The picture shows Professor Susan Lea, with Chandler Saint, honorary fellow of the Wilberforce Institute and co-director of the Venture Smith Project.

Professor Trevor Burnard, Director of the Wilberforce Institute for the study of Slavery and Emancipation, said: “Venture Smith was a major Black writer in the eighteenth century whose autobiography movingly describes his transportation to America and life as an enslaved person and then freedom fighter in Connecticut.

“The Wilberforce Institute has long been involved in highlighting Venture’s life, including translating his autobiography into Fante and distributing it widely in Ghana.

“It is delighted to participate in a major initiative, led by Congressman Rosa L Delauro and Senator Richard Blumenthal, both of Connecticut, to proclaim a day honouring Venture Smith.

Chandler Saint, president, Beecher House Center for Equal Rights, co-director, Documenting Venture Smith Project and an honorary fellow of the Wilberforce Institute and David Richardson, a former director of the Wilberforce Institute took the lead in advancing this initiative – which included giving copies of a special edition of Venture’s autobiography to all members of the US Congress.

Chandler Saint said: “We honour historic figures on an important day in their lives – normally their birthday of death date, but in Venture’s case the most important date, now recognised by the US Congress, is the day he regained his freedom by self-redemption after 26 years of enslavement. He was an outspoken pioneer of the liberation movement.”

“We are delighted that Venture Smith is being recognised for his achievements and are looking forward to more activities which highlight the life and ideas of this remarkable African and American man.”

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