Changing Racist Hearts (5)
Posted: July 23, 2020
Abolishing the slave trade…
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Few examples of systemic racism are more glaring than the African slave trade. British parliamentarian
Abraham Lincoln Wilberforce's significant role in abolition. South African president Nelson Mandela, addressing the British Parliament in 1996, , "We have returned to the land of William Wilberforce who dared to…demand that the slaves in our country should be freed."
Legal, lucrative, brutal
Enter Wilberforce, young, eloquent, popular, and ambitious. He seemed destined for political greatness. Then, a profound change led him on a path that some say cost him the prime ministership, but made an indelible historical mark for justice.
While traveling with Cambridge professor Isaac Milner, a skeptical Wilberforce spent long hours discussing biblical faith. His doubts receded as Milner
Considering leaving Parliament for the ministry, he consulted , slave-trader-turned-pastor and writer of the well-known hymn, "Amazing Grace." Newton Wilberforce to remain in Parliament, that God had raised him up "for the good of the nation."
In time, Wilberforce grew to
Wilberforce and the Abolitionists repeatedly introduced legislation. Apathy, hostility and parliamentary chicanery dragged out the battle. Twice West Indian sea captains threatened Wilberforce's life. His health faltered.
Buoyed by friends and his faith, Wilberforce persisted. He God viewed all humans as equal, citing the biblical : "[God] has made from one blood every nation…." Methodism founder John Wesley encouraged perseverance, , "[I]f God be for you, who can be against you? …be not weary of well-doing! Go on…till even American slavery (the vilest that ever saw the sun) shall vanish away…."
Persevering for twenty years, in 1807 Wilberforce prevailed. Parliament erupted in cheering as the slave-trade-abolition law passed.
Outlawing the slave trade proved the impetus for a host of social improvements, including prison reforms, child labor laws, and abolition of slavery itself in 1833, of which Wilberforce learned a few days before his death.
His Westminster Abbey memorial inscription his efforts, "Which, by the blessing of God, removed from England the guilt of the African slave trade, and prepared the way for the abolition of slavery in every colony of the Empire: …he relied, not in vain, on God…."
William Wilberforce was not perfect. He had fears, flaws and foibles like anyone. You likely would not agree with all his political views. But he did possess dedication to principle and to God, close friends of many stripes, a penchant for bipartisan cooperation, and steadfast commitment to right terrible injustice.
History generally has treated him kindly. Could bipartisanship, civility, and faith play significant roles in today's racial struggles?
Copyright © 2020 Rusty Wright
Search all articles byRusty Wright is an author and lecturer who has spoken on six continents. He holds Bachelor of Science (psychology) and Master of Theology degrees from Duke and Oxford universities, respectively. www.RustyWright.com • E-mail the author (moc.loa@thgirwytsur*) • Author's website (personal or primary**)
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