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date: 31 March 2020

Lewsham (Newsham), Amelia locked

(c. 1742–after 1798), entertainer,
  • Kathleen Chater

Extract

was born in Jamaica, the daughter of house slaves of Sir Simon Clarke, a member of the Council of Jamaica. Nothing is known of Amelia’s early life in Clarke’s household, but she had a condition, albinism, that was to change her future.

Albinism is an inherited genetic condition that prevents production of the normal amount of the skin pigment melanin. Although Amelia’s features were those of her parents of African origin, her skin, eyes, and hair were abnormally fair. It now seems distasteful to gawk at physical peculiarities, but this was not the case in the eighteenth century. Amelia and others like her were not regarded with revulsion or embarrassed pity, as they might be today, but as evidence of the wonders of nature. Clarke was determined to improve his family fortunes, and he decided that such a remarkable source of interest could not remain unexploited.

When she was about ...

A version of this article originally appeared in The Dictionary of Caribbean and Afro-Latin American Biography.

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