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Granville Sharp and William Wilberforce - Great Abolitionist Campaigners

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The white middle-class campaigners, such as Granville Sharp and William Wilberforce, played a crucial role in the abolition of the slavery throughout the British Empire. Their role was crucial because didn’t only put pressure on the government and Members of Parliament to actually change the law, but it also raised awareness for the wider general public about the necessity to abolish this horrible trade.

If Granvile Sharp hadn’t, by chance, met Johnathan Strong one of the greatest campaign against slave trade would not have started. As Sharp left his home in 1765 he noticed a young runaway slave (Johnathan Strong) queuing for medical help. His head was really swollen, nearly blind and struggled to walk. He told Sharp that he was brought to Britain as a salve and was beaten by his owner, so he had to run away. Sharp took him to a hospital, where he gradually recovered.

Two years later he was healthy and worked as a messenger boy. But one day his old master saw him, captured him and sold him, and eventually he was back in Jamaica. Sharp took the case to court, where the Lord Mayor of London ruled: “The lad has not stolen anything, and is therefore at liberty to go away”. Sharp had won this case. But what about all the other similar cases that the courts where waiting to hear? Sharp did multiple cases for the slaves. He saved many of them from being sent back to the West Indies. Judges agreed that the masters could not for slaves to go out of Britain. Although Sharp wasn’t able to get Slavery or Slave Trade abolished, but he had started the campaign against slavery. Sharp was involved in other cases, such as the slave ship Zong, These cases were beginning to turn public opinion against slavery.

The campaign to abolish slavery was led by the Quakers, who believed that slavery was sinful against Christian teachings. In 1797 twelve opponents of slavery, including several Quakers, formed a group to fight for abolition. William Wilberforce is the best known of them, he was an MP and made many speeches against slavery. Another member of the group (Thomas Clarkson) collected as much information as he could about conditions on slave ships, which he used to persuade people on how terrible the trade was. Large petitions were taken to Parliament. Again and again campaigners tried to get Parliament to abolish. At last it was successful in 1807.

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