Samuel Barber (Local Preacher)

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Samuel Barber
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Born1783 December 29
DiedJuly 6, 1828(1828-07-06) (aged 44)
CitizenshipUnited Kingdom
OccupationLocal Preacher

Samuel Barber(29th December 1783 - 6th July 1828)[1] was born in London to Francis Barber and Elizabeth Ball.

Conversion to Methodism

As a member of the Church of England he was converted from Anglicanism to Methodism in 1808[2], and went on to become the first Black British local preacher in the Primitive Methodist Church in 1809.[3] It is possible that he was expelled from the Methodist Society just like his older contemporaries, Hugh Bourne[4] and William Clowes[5]. Like his father, Samuel married an Englishwoman by the name of Frances Sherwin in 1811.[6] He was a prototype for what a Black British clergyman could look like in the Church of England in the 19th century and beyond.

Representation in Media

Samuel Barber features in the short animation film, Tunstall[7], written and directed by Jason Young.[8] It was screened as part of Staffordshire Black History Month.[9]

Black Men in Jane Austen's England

John Smith from the Primitive Methodist Magazine describes him as something of a dandy, enjoying music and dancing and spending much time dressing his hair as proud a fop as ever lived. This is the sort of world that is depicted in Jane Austen’s novels yet a Black British character has not emerged in 19th century novels or historical fiction set in Jane Austen’s England. In ‘Mansfield Park’, Mr. Crawford suggests going to a ball with Fanny Price in Northampton because he would like to see her dance.[10] There would certainly be drama if a character like Samuel Barber turned up in ‘Mansfield Park’ because as Littlewood states in his Introduction, Fanny Price lacks sparkle. It would certainly add variety and flavour if more diverse characters were in Jane Austen’s novels to accurately reflect the diversity of 19th century England. Edmund in ‘Mansfield Park’ wants to be ordained as a clergyman in the Church of England. Samuel Barber, who started out in the Church of England, becomes a local preacher in the Primitive Methodist Church around the same time. ‘Mansfield Park’ was published in 1814 in three volumes. Samuel Barber became a local preacher in the Burslem Circuit of the Primitive Methodist Church in 1809. Edmund’s story could quite easily be Samuel Barber’s story, and if black lives matter in historical fiction then there should certainly be a historical novel about Samuel Barber in Jane Austen’s England.


  2. Aleyn Lyell Reade, Johnsonian Gleanings Part 2. Francis Barber: The Doctor's Negro Servant (1912; repr., New York: Octagon Books Inc, 1968), 90.
  3. Cedric Barber, Slaves, Saints and Sinners (Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire: Tentmaker Publications, 2008), 124.
  4. A New History of Methodism, ed. N. J. Townsend et al. (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1909), 1:568.
  5. H.B. Kendall, The Origin and History of the Primitive Methodist Church (London: Edward Dalton, n.d.), 1:99.
  6. Black Voices: The Shaping of Our Christian Experience, ed. David Killingray and Joel Edwards, (Nottingham: Inter-Varsity Press, 2007), 48.
  10. Jane Austen, Mansfield Park, ed. Ian Littlewood (1814; repr., Ware, Hertfordshire: Wordsworth Classics, 2000), 201.

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