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Radio & Podcast

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Dr Johnson's Black Heir



In this episode of the Empire podcast (there are 2 parts), historian Peter Moore recounts the story of how a Jamaican slave ended up living in England with the eccentric writer, Samuel Johnson (1709-1784).

The young Quashey (thought to be the original name) was legally owned by a Colonel Richard Bathurst and about 8 years of age when he was trafficked to England, baptised and renamed Francis Barber. He was initially sent to a boarding school in Yorkshire before being ‘gifted’ to Samuel Johnson.

Francis Barber was ‘granted’ his freedom by Richard Bathurst in around 1754 after which the boy went to work for a pharmacist before joining the navy. He later returned to work for Samuel Johnson.

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