Facts on John Newton & some relevant dates regarding the slave trade
24th July 1725 - John Newton is born.
At the age of 11, he makes his first sea journey with his father, and sails with him on six voyages until his father retires in 1742.
1743- A press gang force Newton into naval service on HMS Harwich. He tries to escape, but is captured and punished. He is later exchanged into service on a slave ship which sails to Sierra Leone.
He becomes the servant of a slave trader who treats him badly.
1748 - Newton is rescued by a sea captain who had been asked by his father to look out for him.
12th May 1748 - on their return trip to England on the slave ship the Greyhound, there is a storm, and the ship is in danger of sinking. Newton calls on the Lord, and has his encounter with God.
He gives up drinking, gambling and profanity after the encounter, but becomes an active participant in the trans- Atlantic slave trade.
1748-1749 - on his return to England, he obtains a position as first mate on the slave trading vessel, the Brownlow.
He makes three further sea journeys as captain of slave ships.
1750 - He captains the slave ship the Duke of Argyle.
1752-53 and 1753-54 - He captains the slave ship the African.
The slave trade involved the dehumanisation of Africans who were treated as property, kidnapped, raped, and murdered. African women were raped on slave ships.
1754 - Newton retires from the slave trade after a serious illness.
1764 - He is ordained.
1772 - He is believed to have written the Amazing Grace hymn, but he does not condemn the slave trade.
1772 - Lord Mansfield rules in Somerset case that slavery is “so odious that nothing can be suffered to support it but positive law’ and frees Somersett a runaway slave.
1783 - The Society of Friends (Quakers) sponsor an anti-slavery petition in Parliament.
1787 - The Society for the Abolition of the Slave Trade is formed. The founding members are nine Quakers and three Anglicans including Thomas Clarkson and Granville Sharp. Newton is not a founding member.
1787 - Ottobah Cugoano an African abolitionist publishes ‘Thoughts and Sentiments on the Evil and Wicked Traffic of the Commerce of the Human Species, which stirs public opinion against the slave trade.
1787 - William Wilberforce is persuaded to lead the Parliamentary campaign against the slave trade.
1788 - Newton finally publicly speaks out against the slave trade, and acknowledges that it is wrong in his pamphlet ‘Thoughts on the African Slave Trade’ which talks about the horrors of the slave trade.
1789 - Abolitionist Olaudah Equiano publishes ‘The interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano’ which provides a first hand account of the horrors of the slave trade and enslavement.
1789 - Wilberforce makes his first parliamentary speech against the slave trade.
1807 - The British Parliament passes the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act, which abolishes the slave trade, but not slavery.
1807 - John Newton dies on 21st December.
Compiled by Ms Serwah