Friday, February 16, 2007

A 200th celebration and a Brummie link

In a few weeks time, the nation will be remembering the 200th anniversary of parliament voting to abolish the slave trade.

Karen Hamilton and myself tabled a resolution to last week's city council meeting - noting some little known links to north Birmingham.

The MP at the centre of the campaign - who tabled persistent resolutions to parliament over a 20 year period - was William Wilberforce. Wilberforce married a Brummie, Barbara Spooner, and her family home can still be viewed. It is Rookery House, Erdington, which still bears the cast-iron decor installed by her iron merchant father Isaac Spooner.

Wilberforce was a devout Christian and a film about his remarkable life Amazing Grace is set to hit the cinemas next month to coincide with the commemorations. And yes, there is a direct link to the well-loved hymn of the same name.

Our resolution to the council described the slave trade as a "stain" on our nation's history. The vote 200 years ago did not end it - but it enabled the British navy, strengthened after Trafalgar in 1805, to move against the slavers and end the kidnapping and trafficking that blighted millions of lives. It was indeed one of the most significant moments of British history.

We also noted that slavery in different forms still persists and that actions such as supporting Fair Trade - as Birmingham does now as a city - can help combat this.

Jon Hunt

Breaking the Chains is the organisation that is coordinating many of the local commemoration events. The website is still under development.

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