Amelia Newsham, the White Negress


Amelia Newsham, an albino enslaved woman, arrived in London having been sent from Jamaica as a present from her master to his son. She was sold on to two men who exhibited her at fairs throughout Britain.

By 1795, she was being exhibited by Thomas Hall at the House of Curiosities, No. 10 City Road in London. While marvelling at her unpigmented African features, visitors were treated to her recitation of the following verse:

 

 

My nose, my lips, my features, all explore,


The just resemblance of a blackamore;


And on my head the silver-coloured wool


Gives further demonstration clear and full.


This curious age may with amazement view


What after ages won't believe is true.
 

 

Souvenir coins struck with the likeness of the 'White Negress' were also for sale.

Mrs Newsham continued to exhibit herself after she gained her freedom and had met and married an Englishman, with whom she had six children.

Amelia was the most prominent of a number of young albino women who were put on display as 'white negresses' in the 18th and 19th centuries.

 

The earliest record is of a 'white negro girl' exhibited at Bartholomew Fair (London's Smithfield) at 'a penny a look' in the 1740s.

 


 

Token for Thomas Hall

 

The obverse depicts a full length figure of a woman in European dress, with the legend: 'MRS NEWSHAM THE WHITE NEGRESS'. The reverse has the legend: 'TO BE HAD AT THE CURIOSITY HOUSE CITY ROAD', as well as the inscription: 'NEAR FINSBURY SQUARE, LONDON 1795'.

 

 Mrs Amelia Lewsam (or Newsham)

 

'The white Negro woman' was brought from Jamaica in 1754 aged about 5 and was offered for sale as 'the greatest Phaenomenon ever known' priced 400 guineas.

 

A year later she was exhibited at Charing Cross with a cost of 1 shilling per head to gawp at her. She was described as having 'all the features of an Aethiopian with a flaxy woollen head, a skin and complexion fair as alabaster'.

 

She was 'exhibited' again at the Bartholemew Fair in 1788 (Fryer, 1984).

 

Thomas Hall was a taxidermist, curiosity dealer and proprietor of a fine exhibition of stuffed birds, etc. These trade tickets advertised his curiosities on exhibit at Finsbury Square and also touring at Bartholemew Fair, an event renowned for its theatrical booths.

 

 It was at Bartholemew's Fair that he made use of such human exhibits as Mrs Newsham.

 

  •  

    Copper penny token issued in 1795 by T. Hall for his Exhibition of Curiosities and Natural

     


     

    Thomas Hall

     

    An original image below of Thomas Hall.

            Image also depicts a Toucan

     

    Phenomena situated on the City Road, London. Obverse - An African woman standing in a long dress, half right, 'Mrs NEWSHAM THE WHITE NEGRESS'. Reverse -'THE FIRST ARTIST IN EUROPE FOR PRESERVING BIRDS BEASTS Etc'. Edge - 'MANUFACTURED BY W. LUTWYCHE BIRMINGHAM'. Diesinker Dixon, manufacturer Lutwyche.


    Thomas Hall of No. 10 City Road was a taxidermist, curiosity dealer and proprietor of an exhibition of stuffed birds and animals, curiosities and natural phenomena. He was the owner and exhibitor of the first Kangaroo ever to be brought to Europe which is an illustration of the importance and popularity of this establishment in Georgian London. However, in line with the values of the day, animals were not the only the exhibits at this museum and sadly deformed humans, dwarfs and Africans were also put on show as a curiosity and this penny token advertises one of them.


    Amelia Newsham was probably an albino African and there are records of a 'white negro girl' being exhibited at the Bartholomew Fair in London at 'a penny a look', some several years before the date of this token.

     

    It is likely that Mrs. Newsham was that girl and in 1795 she was in the 'employ' of Thomas Hall. Contemporary accounts describe her as being the child of black Jamaican parents, she had African features but white skin and white hair - some four to six inches long with the Constancy and colour of sheep's wool.


    Born a slave in Jamaica, she was sent as a gift from her owner to his son in London. Later she was sold on to two men who exhibited her across England. At this point she met and married an Englishman and from then on she continued to exhibit herself as the "White Negress", after she gained her freedom. She was still alive in 1824 for at that date the Cabinet of Curiosities magazine described her as 'Born in Kingston Jamaica, arrived in Britain as a young girl where she married an Englishman by the name of Newsham by whom she had six children and although white herself, they were all mullatoes'. She was still exhibiting at that time and would recite a poem to viewers regarding the amazing curiosity that she was.

     


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