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The birth of Francis Barber in 1735 is celebrated on this date. He was a Black slave who became a businesswoman and educator.
Barber was born on a plantation in Jamaica and brought to England by his owner in 1750. After brief schooling at a village school in Yorkshire, he entered the service of his owner's son. Later he was hired out by Samuel Johnson after the death of his wife in 1752. Johnson, an English author, has been described as "arguably the most distinguished man of letters in English history."
Barber worked as Johnson's valet for six years until he escaped to sea. He served on the HMS Stag in the North Sea for the next two years. On his return in 1760, he rejoined Johnson's staff. He worked as Johnson's butler, but in 1762, after attending Bishop's Stortford Grammar School for five years, he worked as his secretary.
Barber married an Englishwoman, and the couple had four children. Barber and his family lived in Johnson's house. When Samuel Johnson died in 1784, he left Barber a gold watch and an annual payment of 70 pounds. Barber moved to Lichfield, Staffordshire, and later, he became a schoolteacher in Burntwood.
Francis Barber died in 1801. His son, also named Samuel Barber, became a Primitive Methodist preacher in Staffordshire.
2,000 years of extraordinary achievement
by Jessie Carney Smith
Copyright 1994 Visible Ink Press, Detroit, MI