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Grant number like: FA-56173-11

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John Wood Sweet
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (Chapel Hill, NC 27599-1350)

Fellowships for University Teachers
Research Programs

$50,400 (approved)
$50,400 (awarded)

Grant period:
7/1/2011 – 6/30/2012

The Captive's Tale: Venture Smith and the Ordeal of the Colonial Atlantic

Over twelve million captives embarked upon the middle passage from Africa to the Americas, but only about a dozen left behind eyewitness accounts. One of them was Venture Smith--an African-born New Englander who published his Narrative of slavery and freedom in 1798. Unlike his contemporary Olaudah Equiano, Smith did not feature prominently in political debates and today he is little remembered. Yet, the very features that made Smith's story seem marginal in 1798 make it resonant today: he emphasized interconnections, not contrasts, between West Africa and North America; he challenged easy distinctions between slavery and freedom; and he portrayed the new American Republic as a site of continuing struggles over citizenship, survival, and equality. Taking Smith's Narrative seriously as a text, and bringing to bear an extraordinary variety of historical documentation, I use his story to rethink the emergence of the modern Atlantic.