William Wilberforce

Wilberforce House, 23 High Street,HU1 1NE. Grid E3

William Wilberforce was born in Hull in 1759, the son of a wealthy merchant. He studied at Cambridge University and in 1780, became Member of Parliament for Hull, later becoming an independent Member of Parliament for Yorkshire, from 1784 to 1812. William became an evangelical Christian in 1785, his faith prompting his interest in social reform. In 1787, he met a group of anti-slave trade activists who persuaded him to join the abolition campaign, and in that year the Society for Effecting the Abolition of the Slave Trade was founded. The Society’s work was the first grassroots human rights campaign, in which people from different social classes worked together against injustice. William headed the campaign for twenty years, and in 1807 the Slave Trade Act was passed by Parliament, abolishing the slave trade. However, the Act did not free those who were already slaves; this was achieved through the Slavery Abolition Act of 1833, which freed slaves in the British Empire. William died in 1833, soon after the Act was passed.

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