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Obtaining support from the media and influential people

Wealth in 18th century London was built on slavery - challenging the status quo would not be easy.

Strong public support helped to drive the campaign forward but the campaigners still needed to get the decision makers to act on this. It was important that the campaign was not restricted to any political party or group and could be moved forward by influential people amongst several key groups, politicians, wealthy businessmen and industrialists, journalists and religious leaders.

This was recognised from the beginning of the campaign. The Quakers (as religious dissenters) knew that they needed the support of Anglicans when they joined forces with Granville Sharp and Thomas Clarkson to form the Society for the Abolition of the Slave Trade. Clarkson also recognised this in 1787, when he visited William Wilberforce to help persuade him to take up the cause in Parliament.  

As a well respected, articulate and fashionable young politician, Wilberforce was influential amongst groups that Clarkson was not. He was able to turn the vague sentiment amongst the more privileged in society, into real opposition. Wilberforce and his supporters were also ultimately successful, as they were able to rise above party politics, to engage the support of both conservative and radical politicians.

The abolitionists also canvassed the support of other leading members of society. They wrote hundreds of letters. Thomas Clarkson, for example, wrote to Josiah Wedgwood asking if he would help to distribute some pamphlets. In reply, Wedgwood came back with his own suggestions for making the campaign more successful. As he was a respected business man, people listened to Wedgwood and he was able to convince friends and colleagues of the evils of the slave trade.  

Olaudah Equiano was also adept at getting decision makers to take up the slavery issue. Equiano formed the Sons of Africa group which campaigned for abolition through public speaking and lobbying parliament and London's daily papers, such as The Morning Chronicle and London Advertiser.   

In 1789, Equiano and Cugoano were two of the nine ‘Sons of Africa' who signed a letter, published in The Diary newspaper, which stated ‘thanks to God the nation at large is awakened to a sense of our sufferings, except the Oran Otang philosophers' (ie - the pro-slavery supporters). The other ‘Sons of Africa' who signed the letter were Yahne Aelane, Boughwa Gegansmel, Cojoh Ammere, Thomas Cooper, William Green, George Robert Mandeville and Bernard Elliot Griffiths.  Equiano, like Cugoano and Clarkson, highlighted in his letters and speeches, the benefits of trading with Africa in goods instead of human beings.


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