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18 June 2014
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Legacies - Stoke and Staffordshire

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Immigration and Emigration
Francis Barber
Portrait of Francis Barber, attributed to Northcote

© Courtesy of Dr Johnson's House Museum
Black roots: Francis Barber

It is a widely accepted myth that the first black people to live in Britain arrived in 1948 onboard the Windrush ship bound from the Caribbean.

Yet black men and women appeared in the diaries of Samuel Pepys (1633-1703); in 18th Century portraits, and even sailed on the Endeavour with Captain Cook in 1768. Francis Barber was one of these early black immigrants. A former man-servant of Samuel Johnson, Barber lived as a free man in Lichfield, married an English woman and has descendents still living in the area. His life story testifies to the fact that black people did choose to make their home in Britain before the 20th Century. Barber's story also demonstrates the difficulties faced by black people in a society which thought fit to buy and sell them like animals. More...

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