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Waters, Billy (1778?–1823), street performer, beggar, and sailor, is generally believed to have been born in North America c. 1778. There are conflicting accounts of his origins, but it is likely that he had been enslaved for much of his early life. He is understood to have joined the ...

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Billy Waters (1778?–1823), by David Wilkie, c. 1815

Private collection. © Michael Graham-Stewart/Bridgeman Images