The abolitionist campaigns

The Abolitionist Campaigns

Origins of the Abolitionist Movement

  • The abolitionist movement came into existence in the late 18th-century in Britain as a response to the harsh and brutal conditions endured by enslaved people.
  • The movement was primarily driven by religious groups like the Quakers and figures such as Granville Sharp, who saw the slave trade as a moral evil in direct violation of Christian principles.

Key Figures of the Movement

  • Thomas Clarkson, a Cambridge-educated clergyman, published an influential essay in 1785 against the slave trade, which kickstarted his deep involvement in the abolitionist movement.
  • William Wilberforce, a parliamentarian, became the political voice of the abolitionist movement, consistently presenting bills to end the slave trade.
  • Olaudah Equiano, a freed man, published his autobiography highlighting the horrors of enslavement. His narrative significantly swayed public opinion towards abolitionism.

Actions and Tactics of the Abolitionist Movement

  • Abolitionists used multiple tactics to achieve their goals such as lobbying MPs, publishing influential literature, generating public petitions and organising boycotts of West Indian sugar.
  • Propaganda was extensively used to sway public opinion against the slave trade. One of the most notable examples is the Brookes slave ship diagram, which graphically depicted the unspeakable conditions aboard a slave ship.
  • Mass petitioning was another effective strategy. About 1.5 million signatures were collected in favour of ending the slave trade, demonstrating a significant shift in public sentiment.

Impact of the Abolitionist Movement

  • The consistent efforts of the abolitionists resulted in the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act in 1807, which made the trade of enslaved people illegal within the British Empire.
  • However, it took another 27 years for the Slavery Abolition Act to be passed in 1833, resulting in the emancipation of enslaved people across the British Empire.
  • The abolition of slavery radically changed international trade and marked the beginning of a long road towards equal rights.