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William Wilberforce and the abolition of slavery

To tell the story of William Wilberforce and the abolition of slavery. To think about the horrors of slavery.

by Gordon and Ronni Lamont

Suitable for Key Stage 2


To tell the story of William Wilberforce and the abolition of slavery. To think about the horrors of slavery.

Preparation and materials


  1. Ask if anyone has heard of William Wilberforce and display his name or write it up. Say that he is a hero but he never won a football match or saved anyone’s life directly himself. He did something that helped to put right a terrible wrong and changed the lives of millions of people who came after him.
  2. Tell the following story:

    About 450 years ago, in the 1560s, English business people started abducting (kidnapping, stealing) men, women and children from Africa. They treated them like luggage and took them to America in ships to be sold as slaves. The businessmen made a lot of money out of this and they didn’t care that conditions on board the ships were so terrible that up to 15% of the Africans they stole died on the voyages. As long as they made a profit on their human cargo that was fine by them.

    Over the next 200 years between 10 and 12 million Africans were abducted and transported. Even the church was involved, with some Christian leaders saying that the Bible supported the slave trade. They said it was good for the Africans to go to America – they called it being civilized! They said that the slaves would get their reward in heaven.

    Things began to change from about 1750 as more and more people in the church and outside it began to see how terrible slavery was, how unchristian and evil. In 1772 slavery was made illegal in England and Wales, and Scotland followed in 1778 – but that didn’t stop the businessmen who made all the money from continuing the slave trade with America.

    William Wilberforce was a Member of Parliament. He was elected by the people of his home town of Hull in the north of England in 1780. In 1784 he became a Christian, and then he met Thomas Clarkson who was an Abolitionist – someone who worked hard to abolish slavery. Wilberforce was determined to put an end to slavery but he knew it wouldn’t be easy. He was right! For the next 18 years he asked the House of Commons to abolish slavery. He just kept on asking and working for change, making speeches and talking to anyone who could help or who needed their mind changing.

    Eventually he did it! On 25 March 1807, 200 years ago, an Act of Parliament was passed to abolish slavery and slave trading in the British Empire.

    He had won, but the story wasn’t over yet. The change in the law did not free those who were already slaves. It was 1833 before an Act of Parliament was passed giving freedom to all slaves in the British Empire. Wilberforce lived just long enough to see this happen; he had retired from politics in 1825 and died on 29 July 1833, shortly after the Act was passed.
  3. Explain that we remember William Wilberforce as a Christian who knew a terrible evil when he saw it and worked tirelessly to end it.

Time for reflection


Can you imagine being taken from your home, and taken across the sea, treated like a piece of luggage?

Can you imagine being sold as a slave and put to work for no pay?

Can you think about the millions of people this has happened to?

Thanks to William Wilberforce and others, it won’t happen to us.

Do you stand up for the things you believe in?



Dear God,

Thank you for the life of William Wilberforce.

Help us to be brave and strong and to keep standing up for what is right.



‘Father, hear the prayer we offer’ (Come and Praise, 48)

Publication date: March 2007   (Vol.9 No.3)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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