Last Friday, March 25, Free The Slaves marked the 204th anniversary of the Slave Trade Act—an Act passed by the UK Parliament formally abolishing the trade of slaves within the British Empire. On this day in 1807, Parliament finally outlawed British ships and colonies from the respective transportation and importation of slaves.
Spearheading the abolitionist campaign in Britain was Thomas Clarkson, an Anglican who rallied support for the anti-slavery cause by exposing the brutality of the trade; displaying shackles and branding irons from slave ships at public meetings as he described in detail the harsh reality of the slave voyages.
Clarkson had worked with the Quakers and other abolitionists to form the world’s first anti-slavery movement organization, the Society for the Abolition of the Slave Trade in Britain, in 1787. The society lives on today in the United Kingdom as Anti-Slavery International, and in the United States as Free the Slaves.
Joining Clarkson in his tireless struggle was William Wilberforce—evangelical Anglican and a member of the British Parliament, not to mention countless other champions of the cause, including African slaves and anti-slavery campaigners, as well as members of the British public.
The “Act for the Abolition of the Slave Trade”, as it was formally known did not abolish slavery itself. Whilst slavery had been abolished in Britain in 1772, it remained legal in the greater part of the British Empire until 1833, with the passage of the Slavery Abolition Act.
But laws are not enough to eradicate slavery. It has been over 200 years since the transportation of slaves was abolished in Britain. But slavery and human trafficking still persist today. In fact, there are more people enslaved today, then ever before in history. That’s why organizations like Free the Slaves and Anti-Slavery International continue to work to change the systems that make slavery possible.