Response to Growing Interest in Anti-Slavery Hero William Wilberforce

March 2, 2007

New Resources for 200th anniversary of Abolition of U.K. and U.S. Slave Trade
NEW YORK, Feb. 26 /Standard Newswire/ — The Wilberforce Project — a partner with Bristol Bay Productions whose motion picture Amazing Grace starring Ioan Gruffud as William Wilberforce and Albert Finney as John Newton was released on Friday (February 23)– is developing a new documentary for television, THE BETTER HOUR and other creative resources to satisfy new interest in this hero of history, William Wilberforce, and the abolition of the Transatlantic slave trade in 1807, whose 200th anniversary is this year.

The TWC Films television documentary, The Better Hour: William Wilberforce, A Man of Character Who Changed The World ( http://www.thebetterhour.com) co- sponsored by the John Templeton Foundation and The Wilberforce Project is targeted for Fall 2007 broadcast in the U.S. and U.K. The film will focus on the character and legacy of British Parliamentarian William Wilberforce. (DVD available next November.)

A book for faith communities entitled Creating The Better Hour with its built-in study guide provides information on the life and legacy of William Wilberforce in concert with the lessons they provide for working for social change today. The book contains reflections and conversations to support each of its twenty-two chapters as well as a recipe for Better- Hour gatherings. (Available in September.)

A study book for schools entitled The British Abolitionists and Their Influence provides an overview of the British abolition movement and how it affected other movements, especially those in the United States. The book contains excerpts from original documents never before located in one resource. (Available in September).

Available now: An audio CD entitled Engaging The Culture–Changing The World: Lessons from William Wilberforce is a series of four 27 minute talks on the following topics: (a) the change from the self-indulgent world of the late eighteenth century to the seeds of Victorian England, (b) the ten ways that Wilberforce achieved change with issue campaigning, (c) Wilberforce’s spiritual discipline, (d) and how to be a contemporary Wilberforce. Available now under Resources at http://www.thebetterhour.com.

William Wilberforce, as a Member of Parliament, was directly responsible not only for the legislation abolishing the British Slave Trade two centuries ago, but he also influenced similar legislation in the U.S. In the view of many, Wilberforce was the father of the modern human rights movement, of the women’s suffrage movement, of universal education for the poor, of the first child labor laws, of prison reform, of a more humane penal code, as well as a founder or participant in sixty-nine philanthropic societies in late eighteenth and early nineteenth century England.

“William Wilberforce’s political career merits attention and imitation,” said Chuck Stetson, chairman of the Wilberforce Project. “Although Wilberforce’s name may be virtually unknown today, in 1858, Abraham Lincoln acknowledged that his was a name known by ‘every school boy in America.'”

The abolitionist and civil rights hero, Frederick Douglass saluted the energy of Wilberforce as the factor “that finally thawed the British heart into sympathy for the slave, and moved the strong arm of government in mercy to put an end to this bondage. Let no American, especially no colored American, withhold generous recognition of this stupendous achievement—a triumph of right over wrong, of good over evil, and a victory for the whole human race.”

“In 1833 when Wilberforce died, the free Blacks in America were urged by their leaders to wear black armbands for thirty days as a sign of mourning,” added Stetson. “In 1856, America’s first historically black university located near Dayton, Ohio was named Wilberforce University.”

The theatrical movie and these new creative resources bring the lessons and legacy of William Wilberforce into sharp focus, and they show how strong motivation and community action can bring about “a better hour” for all human kind.

Wilberforce Central is a private, non-profit alliance established to mark the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the British and the U.S. slave trade (1807- 2007) with an examination of the legacy of William Wilberforce and the Clapham Group, and how we can learn from them lessons which relate to modern issues and the making of “The Better Hour” in our world today.

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