FRANCIS BARBER

July 13, 2020

Born as an enslaved person in Jamaica on Richard Bathurst’s plantation, Francis travelled to England, aged 7, with Bathurst when he sold his plantation. No one knows why Bathurst decided to bring Francis with him when all the other slaves on the plantation had been sold, but it has been suggested that Francis was a result of Bathurst’s rape of an enslaved African female.

Bathurst sent Francis to school in Yorkshire for a few years, then sent him to become a manservant to the writer and doctor, Samuel Johnson at the age of 10. Various accounts have described Francis as Johnson’s “valet-butler-secretary”, the Doctor’s “Negro servant”, “poor Blacky”, “the Ethiopian” and “a poet and protégé of Johnson”. 

Johnson was anti-slavery and paid for Francis to attend grammar school at Bishop Stortford. Johnson was putting together the Dictionary of the English Language and it is believed that Francis assisted greatly in this.

Francis married an English woman called Elizabeth Ball and they had three children, the first of which died while still an infant.

When Johnson died, he left Francis a sum of money in his Will and an annuity of £70. Francis moved to Litchfield, where Johnson had asked him to go and live, citing the expense of London as a good reason for doing so. 

Although he later died in penury, Francis did succeed in setting up a school, making him the first (recorded) schoolmaster of African origin in England. 

  • Last updated June 2020

Recent posts
JAMAICANS LIVING IN UKRAINE WHEN RUSSIA INVADED IN FEBRUARY, SHARE THEIR ACCOUNTS (2022)
On February 25, 2022, Russia invaded Ukraine. Many students from African and Caribbean nations were trapped in Ukraine, due to the suddenness of the invasion. Here, some Jamaicans share their accounts.
CHERRY NATURAL (JAMAICA) SPOKEN WORD
Cherry Natural considers herself as a feminist dub poet or activist, and her sources of inspiration include the late Jamaican poet Louise Bennett. Louise Bennett is well-known as the first Caribbean poet who used Creole or patois consistently and to great effect in her ballads, and who relentlessly stood up for the people's language as opposed to standard English which was then considered as the only passport to social elevation.
Previous post ETHNIC
Next post GASLIGHTING