John Boby was born in 1774 near Kingston, Jamaica, to slaves who already had four children. Boby had vitiligo, whereby the skin loses its pigment in random patches. It appears that his mother was so frightened when she saw white patches on the baby’s black skin that she refused to suckle him. It is likely that she was terrified of being accused of adultery with a white man. The boy was sent to Liverpool at the age of 12 and christened John Primrose Richardson Boby. At some stage he was bought and exhibited by a showman named Clark and in 1795 was on display at London’s famous Bartholomew Fair. The image caption informs that Boby ‘exhibits himself in different parts of England and Scotland’. Boby’s life turned out happily: he gained his freedom and married an English woman.   

 


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