Sunday, 29 April 2007

Abolition: Open Letter To The Press

Open Letter To The Press

March 21 2007

Dear Editor,

With the ‘Amazing Grace’ movie now on general release, there seems to be even more confusion regarding the abolition of slavery. The public seems to have swallowed the myth that William Wilberforce was an anti-slavery pioneer who ended slavery almost single-handedly.

Wilberforce was not an anti-slavery pioneer. For example, despite his efforts in Parliament, which held to the Abolition Of The Slave Trade Act in 1807, in the same year, he published a pamphlet in which he said "it would be wrong to emancipate (the slaves). To grant freedom to them immediately would be to insure not only their masters' ruin, but their own.” Wilberforce is also reported to have voted to send British troops to Haiti to quell Toussaint L’Ouverture’s revolt to free enslaved Africans, and in 1824 he opposed the likes of Elizaeth Heyrick, who argued for the immediate abolition of slavery.

Although he was later persuaded to join the campaign for the immediate abolition of slavery, Wilberforce retired from Parliament in 1825 and did not play a pivotal role in the passing of the Abolition of Slavery Act in 1833 – the led to the eventual emancipation of the African slaves.

A large section of the public wrongly believe Britain is commemorating 200 years since slavery was abolished. Sadly, one of the terrible consequences of not abolishing the slave trade and slavery at the same time is the number of Africans who were thrown into the Atlantic Sea between 1807 when the British slave trade was outlawed, and 1833, when slavery was actually abolished. The reason is that after with the passing of the Slave Trade Act, British captains risked a fine of £100 for every slave found onboard. So when they saw the approaching British navy and realised their ships would be searched, captains often ordered the Africans to be thrown overboard to avoid the fines. This situation would have been avoided if slavery and the slave trade had been abolished at the same time.

Whilst the number of slaves brought to the New World may have decreased after 1807, as slavery itself was not abolished, children born to enslaved Africans increased the slave population.

It is a travesty that the Africans from Nana of the Maroons to Ottobah Cuguano and Olaudah Equiano in Britain, Toussaint L’Ouverture in Haiti, and Sam Sharp in Jamaica, to name a few, and the Quakers, and the likes of Granville Sharp and Thomas Clarkson are largely overlooked whilst one is promoted in films and the press as almost single-handedly bringing an end to slavery.

Best wishes

Ms Serwah

Friday, 27 April 2007

Facts on John Newton & some relevant dates regarding the slave trade

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

What Are We Actually Commemorating? The 1807 Act Did NOT Abolish Slavery!

March 26 2007



· On March 25 2007 Britain officially commemorated the bi-centenary anniversary of the Abolition Of The Slave TRADE Act of 1807

· The William Wilberforce biopic ‘Amazing Grace’ is now on general release nation-wide

But what are we actually commemorating?

Was slavery abolished in 1807? NO

Were the slaves set free from 1807? NO

Were children born after the Act born free? NO

Are we highlighting the suffering of the slaves? YES

Are we highlighting the inhumanity of the enslavers? NO

2007 is NOT 200 years since the abolition of slavery*

A number of African organisations in Britain have argued that 1807 was of no particular significance to Africans. This is because although the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act abolished the British trans-Atlantic trafficking of Africans to the ‘new world’, it did not emancipate enslaved Africans.

Those in the 'new world' remained enslaved, and continued to endure the horrors and cruelties of slavery. Children born to them increased the numbers of enslaved Africans, and they could still be ‘sold’ and separated from their families. In addition, Africans living in Britain who had bought their freedom still run the risk of being kidnapped and sent to the new world as 'slaves'.

*The abolition of Slavery Act was not passed until 1833, and even then not all Africans were emancipated. Those over the age of six remained part free and part slave for a further four years!

· For most enslaved Africans, emancipation did not come until after 1837

· The slave ‘owners’ received £20 million in compensation. The enslaved Africans had to work partly free to ‘buy’ their freedom

So search your heart and mind, then answer these two questions: What are we commemorating in 2007? Who are we commemorating in 2007?

In 2007 we have easy access to the truth. For the sake of humanity, please circulate the truth. We owe it to ourselves to acquaint ourselves with the truth, and leave the spin and misinformation for inconsequential issues.