Portrait of William Wilberforce by Karl Anton Hickel in 1794 maintained by Hull Museums (Wilberforce House Museum) Collections at Kingston-upon-Hull, U.K. Image online courtesy, Wikimedia Commons.
Having heard all of this
you may choose to look the other way
but you can never again say
that you did not know.
Speech to Parliament
May 12, 1789
Wilberforce had the evidence, but he faced a very difficult problem. Britain's slave trade was legal, so the crimes weren't crimes and the wrongs weren't punishable.
As one hundred thousand Africans were wrenched from their homes every year - to become "owned" by foreigners - people in the slave-trading business could ignore their plight because Parliament allowed it.
With extraordinary dedication, however, the Cambridge University essayist (Clarkson) and Parliament's youngest member (Wilberforce) staked out a new path.
Their journey, to illegalize Britain's slave trade, would take twenty years.
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