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British Abolitionists

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  • William Leatham (1785 - 1842)
    Leatham (1785 - 1842) was a leading Banker in Wakefield, a Quaker and an abolitionist. BiographyLeatham was born in Pontefract to a father who would set up the family bank around 1800. Leatham attended...
  • Mary Sharp (1778 - 1812)
    Photo: In The Sharp Family by Johann Zoffany, Mary Sharp is the toddler holding a kittenSharp (1778 - 1812), also called Mary Lloyd-Baker or Mary Lloyd Baker, was a niece of the British abolitionist Gr...
  • By Henry Thomson -, Public Domain,
    William Smith, MP (1756 - 1835)
    William Smith (1756 – 1835) was a British politician and dissenter and Member of Parliament (MP) for Norwich. Early lifeWilliam Smith was born on 22 September 1756 at Clapham (then a village to the sou...
  • Sir Thomas Fowell Buxton, 3rd Baronet (1837 - 1915)
    , Sir THOMAS FOWELL (1837-1915), philanthropist and governor, was born on 26 January 1837 at West Ham, Essex, England, eldest son of Sir Edward North Buxton, second baronet, of Warlies, Essex, and Coln...
  • William Roscoe (1753 - 1831)
    Roscoe (8 March 1753 – 30 June 1831), was an English historian and miscellaneous writer, perhaps best known today as an early abolitionist, and for his poem for children the Butterfly's Ball. LifeHe wa...

British Abolitionists

Image Right - "Am I Not a Man and a Brother?", 1787 medallion designed by Josiah Wedgwood for the British anti-slavery campaign

Image by Josiah Wedgwood (1730-1795) and either William Hackwood or Henry Webber; "Josiah Wedgewood...produced the emblem as a jasper-ware cameo at his pottery factory. Although the artist who designed and engraved the seal is unknown, the design for the cameo is attributed to William Hackwood or to Henry Webber, who were both modelers at the Wedgewood factory." - British Abolition Movement, Public Domain, Wiki Commons

Please link GENi profiles of British Abolitionists to the project. Those of note can be added to the list below.

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// of Slavery poster 1838

Image by Unknown - National Library of Wales, Public Domain, Wiki Commons

British anti-slavery was one of the most important reform movements of the 19th century.

The irony is that during the course of the 18th century the British perfected the Atlantic slave system. Indeed. An estimated 1700 to 1810 British merchants transported almost three million Africans across the Atlantic. It indisputable that the British benefited from the Atlantic slave trade. However the British led the struggle to abolish the salve trade.

There were a number of distinct phases in the history of the British anti-slavery movement.


The first was directed against the slave trade, although before this date, as early as 1783, the Quakers had petitioned Parliament against the slave trade and a similar petition was submitted in 1785 from the inhabitants of Bridgwater in Somerset. These involved a relatively small number of people. The Society for the Abolition of the Slave Trade, organised in May 1787, developed a structure and organisation that made it possible to mobilise thousands of Britons.

The object was to create a constituency for British anti-slavery through distributing abolitionist books, pamphlets, prints and artefacts. The Committee also had its own network of local contacts scattered across country. Thomas Clarkson provided a vital link between London and the provinces, travelling around organising committees, distributing literature and offering advice and encouragement to hundreds of grass-roots activists.

In 1788 over 100 petitions attacking the slave trade were presented to the House of Commons within three months. during the campaign of 1792 519 petitions were presented to the Commons, the largest number ever submitted to the House on a single subject or in a single session. While the industrial north provided the most enthusiastic support for abolition, every English county was represented in 1792, in addition to which Scotland and Wales made significant contributions.

Using mass petitioning William Wilberforce, who led the campaign in the Commons, hoped to exert pressure on Parliament to abolish the slave trade. His strategy was almost successful. In 1792 the House resolved by 230 votes to 85 that the trade ought to be gradually abolished. However In 1793 due to war in France the Commons refused to revive the subject of the slave trade, reversing the resolutions of the previous year.

The acquisition of new territories in the West Indies, notably Trinidad, Berbice, and Demerara, led many of the old planter élite to desert the anti-abolitionist ranks. In 1804, capitalising on this change of heart and the entry into Parliament of new liberal Irish MPs, the abolitionists renewed their campaign, and in 1805 a Bill providing for the abolition of the slave trade to conquered territories passed both Houses. The following year this was replaced by a stronger measure that outlawed the British Atlantic slave trade altogether.

After 1807

The Society for the Abolition of the Slave Trade gave way to the African Institution, whose principal aim was to ensure that the new legislation was enforced and that other countries followed Britain's example. Enforcing the legislation was successful, but persuading other countries to join Britain in outlawing the slave trade was more difficult. Despite the efforts of the African Institution, and those of British ministers, the Congresses of Paris (1814) and Vienna (1815) both failed to reach specific agreement. The results of the Aix la Chapelle Congress in 1818 were also unsatisfactory.

Reports from the West Indies suggesting that conditions on the plantations had not improved since 1807 made abolitionists to rethink their ideas. The situation seemed to call fora direct attack on the institution of slavery itself.

1823 - The Anti-Slavery Society

In 1823 some of the leading members of the African Institution, including, Clarkson, Wilberforce, and Zachary Macaulay, organised the new Anti-Slavery Society. which called for the adoption of measures to improve slave conditions in the West Indies, together with a plan for gradual emancipation leading ultimately to complete freedom.

Like the Society for the Abolition of the Slave Trade, the Anti-Slavery Society was a national organisation with its own network of local and regional auxiliaries. Between 1828 and 1830 Parliament was deluged by over 5000 petitions calling for the gradual abolition (and mitigation) of slavery. But progress in the Commons was slow and halting. In 1831 some of the Anti-Slavery Society's younger and more radical elements organised the Agency Committee (which formally separated from the parent body in 1832). The Agency Committee took abolition out into the country and committed itself to the unconditional and immediate abolition of slavery.

The Agency Committee's efforts paid off. The first reformed Parliament was sympathetic to abolition, and the Cabinet was ready to accept emancipation. In May 1833 Lord Stanley presented a plan to Parliament which finally passed into law on August 29. The new legislation called for the gradual abolition of slavery. Everyone over the age of six on August 1, 1834, when the law went into effect, was required to serve an apprenticeship of four years in the case of domestics and six years in the case of field hands (apprenticeship was later abolished by Parliament in 1838). By way of compensation the West Indian planters received £20 million.

Between 1787 and 1833 Britain had outlawed the slave trade and also abolished slavery throughout her colonies. For many the struggle was over. For others, however, 1833 signalled a new beginning. Despite Britain's withdrawal from the Atlantic slave trade, the traffic had steadily grown since 1807. Slavery also still flourished, most notably in the United States. In 1839, with the organisation of the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society, British anti-slavery entered a another phase.

The British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society was committed to the eradication of the slave trade and slave systems in the world. some of its targets were

  • legalised slavery in British India and Ceylon,
  • suppression of the Brazilian and Cuban slave trades,
  • and after 1850, the abolition of slavery in the United States.

Support for British anti-slavery declined during the 1850s and 1860s. The abolition of slavery in the United States in 1865 (and the adoption of the Fifteenth Amendment to the Constitution in March 1870 which extended the right of voting to all races) was regarded as a victory for abolitionists on both sides of the Atlantic.

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British Abolitionists

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  • William Adam (November 1, 1796 – February 19, 1881) was a British Baptist minister, missionary, abolitionist and Harvard Professor.
  • William Allen FRS FLS FGS (29 August 1770 – 30 September 1843) Quaker, an English scientist and philanthropist who opposed slavery and engaged in schemes of social and penal improvement in early nineteenth century England.


  • Admiral Charles Middleton, 1st Baron Barham PC (14 October 1726 – 17 June 1813) was a British naval officer and politician. Sir Charles Middleton played a crucial role in the abolition of the slave trade in the British Empire.
  • James Beattie FRSE (25 October 1735 – 18 August 1803) was a Scottish poet, moralist and philosopher. He forcefully denounced slavery in his philosophical work, Elements of Moral Science (1790–3).
  • Anthony Benezet (1713-1784): The Teacher. Anthony Benezet was a Quaker teacher, writer and abolitionist. Not British but listed here as he had a big influence on Thomas Clarkson. He was born to a Huguenot (Protestant) family in France. One of the early American abolitionists, Benezet founded the first anti-slavery society in North America, the Society for the Relief of Free Negroes Unlawfully Held in Bondage (after his death it was revived as the Pennsylvania Society for Promoting the Abolition of Slavery); the first public school for girls in North America; and the Negro School at Philadelphia, which operated into the nineteenth century.
  • Elizabeth Blackwell (3 February 1821 – 31 May 1910) was the first woman to receive a medical degree in the United States, as well as the first woman on the UK Medical Register. She was the first openly identified woman to graduate from medical school, a pioneer in promoting the education of women in medicine in the United States, and a social and moral reformer in both the United States and in England. From Wikipedia - "Abolitionist leaders including William Lloyd Garrison and Theodore Weld paid visits to the Blackwell residence Blackwell and the rest of the children adopted their father's liberal views and, rather ironically, voluntarily gave up sugar in protest of the slave trade."
  • Thomas Burchell (1799–1846) was a leading Baptist missionary and slavery abolitionist in Jamaica in the early nineteenth century.
  • Sir Thomas Fowell Buxton Bt (1786-1846), led the fight in Parliament in succession to Wilberforce after Wilberforce became ill. AKA "The Emancipator"


  • the Committee for the Abolition of the Slave Trade (later, the Society for the Abolition of the Slave Trade) founded in 1787;
  • the Society for the Mitigation and Gradual Abolition of Slavery throughout the British Dominions, founded in 1807; and
  • the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society, founded in 1839.
  • Thomas Coke (9 September 1747 – 2 May 1814) was the first Methodist Bishop and is known as the Father of Methodist Missions. While in America he spoke out against slavery and wrote a letter on the subject to George Washington.
  • John Cropper (1797–1876) was a British philanthropist and abolitionist.
  • William Cowper (1731-1800)
  • Quobna Ottobah Cugoano (1757-Unknown): The first African to demand total abolition - black antislavery campaigner, who worked alongside Equiano


  • Archibald Dalzel (1740-circa 1811) of Kirkliston, ran a number of slaving depots in West Africa. As a result of his experience he wrote 'History of Dahomy, an inland kingdom of Africa; compiled from authentic memoirs' (London, 1793) [Shelfmark E.151.a.10].
  • Thomas Day (1748-1789)
  • Rear Admiral Joseph Denman (23 June 1810 – 26 November 1874) was a British naval officer, most noted for his actions against the slave trade as a commander of HMS Wanderer of the West Africa Squadron.
  • William Dickson of Moffat drove the Abolitionist campaign in Scotland. He had been in Barbados as the secretary to the Governor for 13 years and saw slaves being overworked, brutally punished and executed without a proper trial. When he came back to London he offered his services to the Abolitionist Society. He was sent to Scotland, which he turned into a powerhouse for the movement.



  • Alexander Falconbridge (c.1760–1792) was a British surgeon who took part in four voyages in slave ships between 1780 and 1787. In time he became an abolitionist and in 1788 published An Account of the Slave Trade on the Coast of Africa. In 1791 he was sent by the Anti-Slavery Society to Granville Town, Sierra Leone, a community of freed slaves, where he died a year later in 1792.
  • [William Fox (fl. 1791-1794) William Fox] (fl. 1791-1794) - William Fox was among the most prolific radical pamphleteers of the 1790s. Between 1791 and 1794, he collaborated with the Baptist bookseller Martha Gurney in publishing sixteen political pamphlets on topics ranging from the abolition of the slave trade to the perversion of national fast days, from England’s war with France to the government’s selective redefining of the word ‘Jacobin.’ His most famous work, An Address to the People of Great Britain, on the Propriety of Refraining from the Use of West India Sugar and Rum (1791), solidified the abolitionist forces in Great Britain and America by focusing their energies on a boycott of West Indian produce


  • Julia Griffiths (Born, 21 May 1811 in London, England) was a British Abolitionist who worked with Frederick Douglass. The two met in London, England, during Douglass' tour of the British Isles in 1845-47. In 1849, Griffiths joined Douglass in Rochester, and edited, published and promoted his work. She was one of six founding members of the influential Rochester Ladies Anti-Slavery Society
  • Ukawsaw Gronniosaw (1710?-1774?) also known as James Albert (ca. 1705 - 1775), was a freed slave and autobiographer. His autobiography is considered the first published by an African in Britain.
  • Martha Gurney (1733-1816) - printed and/or sold fourteen abolitionist pamphlets, placing her second only to the Quaker James Phillips in the number of abolitionist works printed or sold in London during the height of the slave-trade controversy.


  • Rev. Dr. Christopher Newman Hall LLB (May 22, 1816 - February 18, 1902), born at Maidstone and known in later life as a 'Dissenter's Bishop', was one of the most celebrated nineteenth century English Nonconformist divines. Influential on the side of slavery emancipation in the American Civil War, is buried at Abney Park Cemetery with his father.
  • Francis Hargrave (c.1741-1821) English lawyer and antiquary. He was the most prominent of the five advocates who appeared on behalf of James Somersett in the case which determined, in 1772, the legal status of slaves in England.
  • Lady Alice Seeley Harris (1870–1970) - an English missionary and an early documentary photographer. Her photography helped to expose the human rights abuses in the Congo Free State under the regime of Leopold II, King of the Belgians. {no profile on Geni as of 2015}
  • George Head Head - Head journeyed to London to attend the World's Anti-Slavery Convention on 12 June 1840.
  • Elizabeth Heyrick (4 December 1769 – 18 October 1831): The Radical Campaigner - born Elizabeth Coltman, in Leicester. She married a Methodist, John Heyrick, who died eight years later. was a British philanthropist and campaigner against the slave trade.



  • Mary Morris Knowles (1733-1807) an English Quaker poet and abolitionist. She spoke out in favour of choosing her own spouse, argued on behalf of scientific education for women, helped develop a new form of needle painting, confronted Samuel Johnson, defied James Boswell, and supported abolition of the slave trade and slavery.


  • Louis Celeste Lecesne (c1798 – 22 November 1847), also known as Lewis Celeste Lecesne, was an anti-slavery activist from the Caribbean islands.
  • John Coakley Lettsome (1744–1815) was an English physician and philanthropist. He was born on Little Jost Van Dyke in the British Virgin Islands, into one of the early Quaker settlements in the territory, and he grew up to be an abolitionist.
  • Samuel Lucas (1811–1865) was a British Journalist and abolitionist. He was the editor of the Morning Star in London, the only national newspaper in Britain to support the Unionist cause in the American Civil War.
  • Stephen Lushington (14 January 1782-19 January 1873) was a Doctor of Civil Law, a judge, a Member of Parliament and a radical for the abolition of slavery and capital punishment.


  • Thomas Babington Macaulay, 1st Baron Macaulay
  • Zachary Macaulay (1768-1838): The Former Plantation Manager - born in Inveraray, Scotland, the son of a Minister of the Church of Scotland.
  • James MacQueen (1778-1870) was manager of a sugar plantation in Grenada around 1800. In the 1820s he became editor of the 'Glasgow Courier' [Shelfmark: GIVB.2/22(6)]. This paper favoured West Indian merchant interests and opposed any rights for slaves.
  • Richard Robert Madden
  • Commander Edward Spencer Meara captain of the vessel HMS Nymphe used in anti-slavery operations in the late 1860s of the coast of Africa.
  • Sir Charles Middleton (1726-1813)
  • Constantine Richard Moorsom
  • Hannah More (1745-1833): The Poet & Writer - an educator, writer and social reformer. She was also known for her writings on abolition and for encouraging women to join the anti-slavery movement


  • John Newton (1725-1807): The Former Slaver & Preacher was an Anglican clergyman and former slave ship master.
  • Edward Nicolls


  • Samuel Oughton


  • Elizabeth Pease-Nichol
  • Peter Peckard (c.1718-1797)
  • James Phillippo
  • Beilby Porteus (1731-1809)
  • Mary Prince


  • James Ramsay (1733-1789): The Ship's Doctor & Preacher - born in Fraserburgh, Scotland. He witnessed the suffering of the enslaved people as a ship's doctor in the Navy. Notable poublication - An Essay on the Treatment and Conversion of African Slaves in the British Sugar Colonies] published in 1784.
  • Rev.Henry Richard MP (3 April 1812 – 20 August 1888), "the Apostle of Peace", was a Congregational minister and Welsh Member of Parliament, 1868-88. The son of the Rev. Ebenezer Richard (1781–1837), a Calvinistic Methodist minister, Henry Richard is chiefly known as an advocate of peace and international arbitration, having been secretary of the Peace Society for forty years (1848–84). He is less widely known for his anti-slavery work.

A few weeks after his death, the Anti-Slavery Society, now Anti-Slavery International, published an obituary in their journal, The Anti-slavery Reporter and Aborigine's Friend

  • Dorothy Ripley (1767-1832) was an English missionary and writer who spent thirty years in the United States trying to secure better conditions for the slaves. Later in her life she became involved in prison reform.
  • William Roscoe (1753-1831)


  • Ignatius Sancho (c1729-1780) was a composer, actor and writer. He was a neighbour and friend of Ottobah Cugoano.
  • Granville Sharp (1735-1813) was an early British abolitionist. He was a member of each of the first Anti-Slavery Society, the the Committee for the Abolition of the Slave Trade (later, the Society for the Abolition of the Slave Trade), founded in 1787.
  • Kathleen Simon, Viscountess Simon
  • Joseph Soul (1805-1881)
  • James Stephen (1758-1832): The Lawyer - was the principal English lawyer associated with the abolitionist movement. Stephen was born in Poole, Dorset; the family home later being removed to Stoke Newington.
  • Joseph Sturge (1793-1859) was an important British abolitionist. He was a member of:
  • the Society for the Mitigation and Gradual Abolition of Slavery throughout the British Dominions, founded in 1807; and
  • the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society, founded in 1839.


  • Henry Thornton (1760-1815) - English economist, banker, philanthropist and parliamentarian. One of the founders of the Clapham Sect of evangelical reformers and a foremost campaigner for the abolition of the slave trade. father - John Thornton
  • Dr. William Thornton (May 20, 1759 - March 28, 1828) was a British-American physician, inventor, painter and architect who designed the United States Capitol, an authentic polymath. He also served as the first Architect of the Capitol and first Superintendent of the United States Patent Office. Eager to achieve fame (and undoubtedly some expiation) in the cause of anti-slavery, he emigrated to the United States of America in the fall of 1786, moving to Philadelphia. His unsuccessful efforts to lead a contingent of free black Americans to join the small British settlement of London blacks at the mouth of the Sierra Leone River in West Africa were looked on favorably by Philadelphia's Quaker establishment.
  • Jane Harry Thresher (c. 1756-1784)
  • David Turnbull (c. 1794-1851) - was a leading 19th century abolitionist and a British consul to Cuba. Turnbull, a Scotsman, was a key participant at the 1840 World Anti-Slavery Convention of the Anti-Slavery Society. In a letter he wrote to Lord Palmerston that year, Turnbull argued that slavery was "the greatest practical evil that ever afflicted mankind." [[]


  • Carl Bernhard Wadström (1746-1799)
  • Josiah Wedgewood (1730-1795): The Industrialist - an English potter and industrialist born at Burslem, Stoke-on-Trent. He had very high standards of workmanship and a keen interest in scientific advancements.
  • John Wesley (1703-1791) Methodist Minister.
  • William Wilberforce (1759-1833) was a deeply religious man whose political views were very conservative, but who devoted most of his parliamentary career to the abolition of the slave trade and slavery. He also campaigned for legislation to prohibit the worst forms of child labor, cruelty to animals and the removal of political disabilities on Roman Catholics.


  • Ann Yearsley (1752-1806)

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