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The Fellowship - Abolishing Slavery at Last


The slaves in the British West Indies learned to read, and their reading inspired their efforts to become free. They became a vital part of the fellowship to abolish slavery.

In the 1820s, only William Wilberforce and Thomas Clarkson survived of the original fellowship. But their fellowship to abolish slavery was about to expand – to include the children of those who had fought to end the slave trade, British women from all walks of life, two reformist Lords, and the slaves themselves.

Ending the trade in slaves in 1807 had not freed the slaves, as had been hoped. Africans were no longer carried as slaves to the British West Indies, but the babies born to slaves grew up to be slaves. The work was hard and long even for women far advanced in pregnancy, and the whip enforced the work regime. The Rev. John Smith, a missionary in what is now Guyana, wrote, “The first thing as usual which I heard was the whip. From ? past 6 until ? past 9 my ears were pained by the whip. Sure these things will awaken the vengeance of a merciful God.” The government in London was trying to keep track of how slaves were treated. Extrapolating from the recorded figures, it is estimated that slaves were receiving two million lashes a year, a figure that can only be described as revolting.

And the slaves did revolt.

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