THE FIGHT AGAINST SLAVERY by Terence & Evan Jones Brady


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A concise, vivid, pointedly illustrated account of the abolition movement in England, 1750-1833, enlarging upon the BBC documentary recently aired on public TV. Though not scholars, the authors maintain a historical perspective and a seriousness of tone. They recognize how the development of the protected sugar trade affected the cause of abolition. Harvesting the difficult plantation staple meant utterly decimating such highly developed nations as Songhay, Kanem Bornu, and Benin. For white crew and black cargo alike, the slave ship voyage was a journey through hell: bartering goods on the hostile West African coast; the middle passage to the West Indies; the anxious return to Liverpool. For every slave imported, another died--the English never faced the idea that they were not mere commodities. But the trade was so miserable that opinion against it mounted and dedicated abolitionists enlisted in the propaganda war. John Newton, Granville Sharp, and William Wilberforce were curious characters and their motivations--self-serving religious fervor? political ambition?--are treated with measured skepticism. Whites may have been unable to move beyond patronizing notions and arrogant prophecies, but their efforts in Parliament were real and hard. Legal abolition ""opened the floodgates for another orgy of national self-congratulation,"" though prohibition, alone did not stop the traffic and emancipation came only after sugar had lost economic ascendancy. Slaves were then free--to purchase their liberty. Accessible and intelligent, the book is animated by a feeling for the historical damage still reflected in current upheavals.

Pub Date: Nov. 14th, 1977
Publisher: Norton