The Story of William Wilberforce (And How We Can Fight Slavery Today)

England, late 1700’s
   The transatlantic slave trade was thriving. Millions of Africans were captured, often by their own people, and sold as slaves. They were loaded onto slave ships where they endured terrible conditions. Many did not even survive the journey.
   At this time in history, very few people in England believed the slave trade was wrong. Even fewer were brave enough to speak against it. William Wilberforce was one of those few.
   As a young boy, William Wilberforce’s aunt and uncle had taught him about God, but as he grew older he slowly drifted away from the faith. Having inherited a large fortune, he did not have to worry about making a living, but could pursue whatever career he chose. His sights set on Parliament, Wilberforce began public speaking and was elected to Parliament when he was only 21 years old. He had a successful career ahead of him, but he soon had an experience that changed the course of his life.
   William Wilberforce accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior.
   After his conversion, Wilberforce considered leaving Parliament, but soon his eyes were opened to a great injustice God had placed before him, to fight right where he was. The slave trade. He wrote in his journal, “God Almighty has placed before me two great objects: the suppression of the slave trade and the reformation of manners (society).
   Year after year, Wilberforce presented his bill for the abolition of the slave trade to Parliament. Year after year, his bill lost.
   Some people didn’t want to lose the money they were making from the slave trade. Others didn’t know enough about it to realize how terrible it was. Still others agreed it was wrong, yet weren’t brave enough to speak against it. But a few were.
   William Pitt, who became Prime Minister, sided with Wilberforce. Thomas Clarkson was one of the first to approach Wilberforce with the abolition of the slave trade. Barbara Spooner, who later became his wife, supported him, as did Olaudah Equiano, a former African slave.
   One of the people who influenced Wilberforce the most was John Newton. Formerly the captain of a slave ship, John Newton repented of his sins and became a preacher and hymn writer, penning the famous hymn, “Amazing Grace.” 
   These, along with Hannah More, Henry Thornton, and others, wrote books, essays, pamphlets, collected evidence, gave speeches, preached sermons, and even collected over 300,000 signatures on a petition they presented to Parliament.
   And still shiploads of Africans, treated as cargo, were bought, sold, and traded.
   But William Wilberforce did not give up, even after his abolition bill was defeated year after year. He kept fighting, even while enduring many difficulties including battling an illness that caused fits of coughing and pain throughout his entire body.
   In 1807, Wilberforce presented his abolition bill one last time. The votes were counted and the bill passed. The slave trade was abolished. The crowd erupted into applause. Wilberforce dropped his head into his hands and cried tears of joy. Twenty-six years had passed since he first took up the fight. All those long years, and now at last his goal was achieved.
   Wilberforce continued to battle injustice and, just days before his death, he received word that Parliament had passed a law, freeing all those still held in slavery in the British Empire. William Wilberforce died in 1833.

   The story of William Wilberforce is very inspiring to me. He was a man who pursued his goal relentlessly, persevering through many difficulties. Yet, while he ultimately succeeded in abolishing slavery in England, slavery worldwide, and even here in the U.S., has not ended. In fact, International Justice Mission estimates a number of at least 40 million human slaves in the world today. That’s more than the 365+ years of the transatlantic slave trade combined or any other time in history. Because of the brave men and women who were willing to stand up for freedom, slavery is no longer legal anywhere. But it still happens everywhere.
Here are a few ways you can fight modern day slavery
·             Pray. You can pray for the work of organizations that are working to free slaves. A few of my favorite organizations are International Justice Mission, JoyInternational, and Rahab’s Rope. You can pray for the rescue of victims of human trafficking/modern day slavery. You can pray that God will move more people to stand against it. And you can pray that He will show you what He would have you do. 
Raise Awareness. You can help raise awareness of human trafficking by talking to your family and friends about it, wearing t-shirts that spread the word, and many other ways.
Shop Fair Trade. Another way to help fight slavery is to shop from fair trade companies such as Rahab’s Rope. You can also host a Rahab’s Rope party! Click here to shop Rahab’s Rope, find out more about their work in India and how to host a party.
Foster Kids. A large percentage of human trafficking victims in the U. S. were once in the foster care system. So when you help foster kids, you’re also helping fight human trafficking. Even if you can’t foster yourself, you could support someone who is. You could also collect gifts for foster kids. In some states, there are programs that work with the foster care system to give gift boxes to the kids.
Shop IJM’s Gift Catalogue. With International Justice Mission, you can give a monetary gift in honor of someone. Your gift might be to combat human trafficking, provide aftercare, help fund a rescue mission, etc. You’ll receive a card to send to the person you made it in honor of. It could be a birthday present, to celebrate an occasion, or just because. Go to to learn more about International Justice Mission and shop their gift catalogue.

And another way you can fight modern day slavery is through the power of the written word. At the time of William Wilberforce, abolitionists used written words to educate the public about the atrocities of the slave trade. I believe writing is still a very powerful tool in the fight against the slave trade. You can share about modern day slavery on your social media, write about it on your blog, write letters or articles, whatever way you choose to use your written words.

And always remember, “He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it,” (1 Thessalonians 5:24).
All for Him,
Savannah Jane

P. S. For a really great movie on the life of William Wilberforce, watch the film Amazing Grace. You can also read my review of the movie here. Art by yours truly.



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