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The true narrative of a slave from Africa, crafted in verse by Marilyn Nelson. Born an African prince, Broteer Furro was captured by slave traders at age six. As he stepped onto a cargo ship, the vessel's steward purchased the boy and gave him a new name: Venture. He landed in Rhode Island and worked through a lifetime of slavery to buy not only his own freedom but the freedom of his wife and children. Remarkable in his own time for his ambition and physical stature, Venture Smith became history's first man to ...
The true narrative of a slave from Africa, crafted in verse by Marilyn Nelson. Born an African prince, Broteer Furro was captured by slave traders at age six. As he stepped onto a cargo ship, the vessel's steward purchased the boy and gave him a new name: Venture. He landed in Rhode Island and worked through a lifetime of slavery to buy not only his own freedom but the freedom of his wife and children. Remarkable in his own time for his ambition and physical stature, Venture Smith became history's first man to document both his capture from Africa and life as an American slave. In this breathtaking volume, Marilyn Nelson's poems sit opposite the text of Smith's own narrative. Nelson's controlled verse layers this edition with insight into Smith's stoic eighteenth-century prose. Deborah Dancy's stark watercolor collages highlight the tension between the economical language of the narrative and the turbulent emotion within the poems.
Started out early, following last night's track.
A moon sliver lingered over the moon blue snow.
I left my lady laying on her back trumpeting the most beautiful music I know.
Can't take her home with me, where she belongs,
to warm my room with her smile, my pillow with her cheek.
She and our children: owned. (God must bear wrongs like a strong black man pretending to be meek.)
Like me, my Meg was kidnapped as a child and raised in a white home, the only slave. … —FROM THE BOOK
Gr 6 Up
Poems in various forms parallel the reproduced text of A Narrative of the Life & Adventures of Venture, a Native of Africa , published in 1798. Nelson's depictions and interpretations of scenes from Venture's account bring a musical, emotional, and inquisitive context to the true story of an enslaved African who eventually bought freedom for himself and his family. Similar in format to Fortune's Bones (2004) and Carver (2001, both Front St), the volume features poems on the right-hand pages, facing the ongoing narrative on the left (amazingly, the two keep pace). Text floats over abstract earth-toned art that lends qualities of light and texture to match the tone of each selection. The poems have both the sense of natural speech and of oratory, giving rhythmic majesty to intensely detailed physical and emotional landscapes. They are dense but rich, and encourage readers to approach the 18th-century narrative (which may seem oddly narrow-minded or stilted to today's youngsters) in a variety of ways. Respectful of both her audience and her subject, Nelson adds to her unique body of work connecting youngsters to history through a combination of primary-source material and verse.-Nina Lindsay, Oakland Public Library, CA
An astonishing, heartbreaking cycle of poems is set in counterpoint against the slave narrative that inspired them. Venture Smith, born Broteer Furro in Guinea, was captured and enslaved at the age of six and brought to America in 1738. Moving from one master to another, he eventually bought his own freedom, that of his wife and children and a handful of other enslaved men, becoming a prosperous Connecticut landowner in the process. His narrative, published in 1798, appears continuously on the left-hand page of each spread; Nelson's luminous poems appear on the right. Both are thrown into relief by Dancy's mixed-media artwork, which includes images of birds, ropes, chains and blood to heighten the visceral emotions of both texts. Nelson writes in Venture's voice: "Breath, dreams, pulse, traded for cloth and alcohol, / were capital. There was profit in the pain, / the chains. Venture. There were whole worlds to gain." Painfully, readers see how commerce governed Venture's life even after he was "freed," struggling always for his humanity against the spiritual chains put in place by the twisted economy that shaped him. Tragic, important, breathtaking. (author's, artist's notes) (Poetry. 13 & up)