Slavery has been part of many cultures and still is. There are even slaves being used in Britain and America right now. Girls are being trafficked in the sex trade and threatened and cajoled. Domestic slaves are being brought in from the Third World. Slaves are being used in the Drug trade and in business.
It is not over yet.
In Britain the main use of slaves was to service the plantations in the British colonies during our years as an Empire. They worked on cotton plantations, in sugar fields, coffee and tea plantations and in mines – wherever labour was required. They created wealth and made vast fortunes for their owners.
Those slaves were purchased from Africa. But it was not just the wealthy British land-owners who had their hands dirty. Many of these slaves were the result of rivalry between Africa communities and tribes. They were captured and enslaved by other African tribes, sold to Arab slave traders and sold on to Europeans.
The Africans and Arabs had their fingers on the slave loot.
I live near Hull where we are proud of the efforts of William Wilberforce. He worked ceaselessly to have slavery abolished and the abolitionists, working on the principle that all humans were equal in the eyes of God, created such a stir that they caused a public outcry. The British people, with their feelings of social justice, rose up against the idea of slavery.
The poet William Cowper wrote in 1787 – ‘We have no slaves at home – Then why abroad? Slaves cannot breathe in England; if their lungs receive our air, that moment they are free. They touch our country, and their shackles fall.’
The antislavery movement began in earnest in 1783 and by 1807 had forced parliament to bring in an antislavery act that while not banning slavery made the slave trade illegal.
Between 1808 and 1860 the British navy captured 1600 slave ships and freed 150,000 African slaves.
In 1833 slavery itself was abolished three days before William Wilberforce died. The public’s abhorrence, stirred up by Wilberforce and the other abolitionists had brought civilisation to the British Empire.
The idea of tolerance, equality and social justice was born. It is up to all of us to take up the baton and take it forward until all the world shines with its light.
Slavery was the first step. Religious intolerance, political tyranny and social inequality must now be the aim of all civilised people.
One people – One future – Help change the zeitgeist!!!