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Baartman, Sarah  

John Gilmore

Also known as Sara or Saartjie, and as Bartman (1788?–1815/16), a member of the Khoisan people of southern Africa, exhibited as a ‘freak’ in 19th‐century Britain. Her original name is unknown, but when she was employed by a Dutch farmer called Peter Cezar, she was given the Afrikaans name of Saartjie [Little Sarah] Baartman, and this was later Anglicized in various forms. In 1810 she was brought to Britain by Peter Cezar's brother Hendric [or Henrick], a Boer farmer at the Cape, and Alexander Dunlop, a British army surgeon. Dunlop soon sold his interest in the enterprise to Cezar, who made money by exhibiting Baartman in London and elsewhere in Britain under the name of ‘the Hottentot Venus’. ‘Hottentot’ was a traditional derogatory term for Khoisan people, while ‘Venus’ appears intended to refer to the idea of ‘the Sable Venus or more generally ...


Exhibits, Black people as  

Lucy MacKeith

From as early as the 16th century, black people were employed in Britain as musicians and performers, and there was often an element of display in the employment of black servants, whose exotic appearance served to advertise their masters' wealth, colonial connections, or both.

Rather different was the way in which, particularly in the 18th and 19th centuries, there were cases of black people being displayed as exhibits to appeal to the curiosity of white viewers, especially if they were in some way out of the ordinary. Sometimes the curiosity was allegedly scientific, as with the ‘white boy’ (an albino child of African parents, born in Virginia in 1755) who was brought to Britain and ‘shewn before the Royal Society’ in London in January 1765 More often it was the result of the same sort of attitude that attracted paying customers to exhibitions of white people who were ...


Inkle and Yarico  

John Gilmore

One of the most popular themes in 18th‐century British (and European) literature, the story of Inkle and Yarico became part of the growth of feeling opposed to the slave trade and slavery in the later part of the century.

In his True & Exact History of the Island of Barbadoes (1657), Richard Ligon (c.1590–1662) described meeting there an Amerindian woman called Yarico. He reported how she was originally from the coast of South America, where she had rescued a young Englishman who was in danger from her compatriots, and how in return the young man had taken her to Barbados and sold her as a slave. Ligon's story may have been based on fact, but in 1711 the well‐known Irish writer Richard Steele (1672–1729) published a version that added many fanciful details, giving the young man the name of Thomas Inkle ...



David Dabydeen

A number of black women worked as prostitutes in 18th‐century London, and some of them because sufficiently well known for details of their lives to be recorded in contemporary documents and memoirs. One of the most famous was Black Harriot, a West Indian slave working as a prostitute in London in the 1770s, her clients said to include 20 members of the House of Lords and 50 members of the House of Commons. A contemporary handbook on the sex trade (Nocturnal Revels; or, The History of King's‐Place, and Other Modern Nunneries, 1779 informs us that Harriot was purchased as a slave on the coast of Guinea taken to Jamaica and sold to an English planter The planter became enamoured of Harriot s character she was a lively genius her mental abilities far superior to the common run of Europeans Harriot was taught to read and write ...