Slaves, Sinners and Saints
When Cedric Barber went back to his roots, he uncovered an incredible story of black slavery and the birth of Primitive Methodism. The resultant book is a personal account of seeing his ancestors through a Christian faith.
A North Staffordshire man from a North Staffordshire family, I was born in Burslem, the same town as all the Barbers before me. How could I be anything but English through and through?
But in our family there was a murmur of a mysterious black ancestor. More mysterious still, that ancestor had illustrious connections.
I found this fascinating enough to research, but I was astonished to discover that the black ancestor was my direct great, great, great, great grandfather, Francis Barber (also known as Frank), ‘adopted’ son of the distinguished literary genius, Dr Samuel Johnson. I was interested, but not enough to write a book!
My research then led me to a dusty ‘magazine’ published in 1829 which contained a biography of Frank’s son, Samuel Barber. This revealed that ‘Black Sam Barber’ lived in Burslem and became a fervent evangelist in the Christian revival which began in that area in 1805. This was a revelation which really did grab my attention! Even so, I was still not prepared to write a book!
A spiritual ‘shot in the arm’
As a Christian I was thrilled with this heritage, it really was a spiritual ‘shot in the arm’. As a white man I was also very moved to realise that my roots were in Africa.
I cherished this, and began to connect so well with people who have since become very close friends; friends from Ghana, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Nigeria. There has never been a time in history when so many Africans have lived in Britain.
I respected Sam Barber immensely and wanted to be like him; my own flesh and blood. His evangelical activity took place in the area I had grown up and in my home town of Tunstall. I found this very personal. This was sufficient to motivate me to make the story known, certainly locally.
In 2004, a few years before all this, my wife, Jean, and I had encountered an extraordinary and rather significant experience. I had read a book entitled ‘Miracle Valley’.
It was the account of many miraculous moves of God at a church on a farm; ‘Hollybush Christian Centre’ near Thirsk, North Yorkshire. We were thrilled to visit Hollybush in August that year. We were even more thrilled to be called out by the pastor who then prophesied over Jean and me.
The prophecy was, “You shall go from town to town in England to give out the gospel message of Jesus Christ. Afterwards, people will come up to you to ask about it.” Although we were thrilled, nothing happened that year!
Two significant bicentenaries
In reality, all this was setting the scene for what was destined to take place in 2007. This was the year of two very significant and well publicised bicentenaries; namely The Abolition of Slave Trading by the British and the famous revivalist Camp Meeting at Mow Cop.
Because I had made my story known prior to this, when 2007 arrived, I was contacted by all the media, by schools, family history societies, even the National Science Museum (NSM) in London. The result was that we visited twenty venues that year to tell the story of my family history.
In each of those I gave the gospel message to the mainly secular audiences and found people coming up to me afterwards to ask about it. Prior to the debate in the NSM’s Dana Centre, together with Tim Campbell (Alan Sugar’s first ‘Apprentice’ winner) I had my DNA checked and my nearest matches were found in Johannesburg, South Africa.
It would be a massive understatement to say that 2007 was a truly remarkable year! A ‘mini revival’ happened in my family with four closely related Barbers accepting Jesus as their Lord and Saviour.
Writing the book
I had always believed God is faithful, but that prophecy two and a half years earlier was being fulfilled before our very eyes! Suddenly I realised that keeping the story to myself was not an option. Without any experience, I began writing the book 'Slaves, Sinners and Saints'.
I found the most important ingredients for writing are inspiration and enthusiasm. My inspiration came from God, and my enthusiasm was simply to pass on a truly amazing story.
For 200 years God had set me apart from all my family and commissioned me to write about the great things He had done and continues to do in our generation. Why would He do this?
So that many people by reading the book would respond to His invitation to seek a personal relationship with Him through His Son, Jesus.
If you’ve got a story, if you’ve got inspiration and enthusiasm, don’t wait. It’s your time to start writing!
The book 'Slaves, Sinners and Saints' is available locally at the Methodist Book Centre in Hanley (Tel: 01782 212146). Or via their website:
last updated: 14/05/2009 at 07:54
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