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Anti-slavery movement, British, and the black response to colonization

Beverly Tomek


The emphasis on the Atlantic World as a dynamic, interactive community has provided a fresh perspective on New World slavery. Social historians and African studies specialists have learned to greater appreciate the roles black members of this community played, not just as slaves, but also as merchants, sailors, and activists. Former slaves contributed to this complex transatlantic society by participating in an abolitionist crusade that spread to three continents during the last half of the eighteenth century. During this time, educated former slaves in England including Ignatius Sancho, Ottobah Cugoano, and Olaudah Equiano joined British philanthropists in an effort to educate the public about the evils of slavery. Their work helped to convince the British government to make slavery illegal in England in 1772, to halt the slave trade in 1807, and to emancipate colonial slaves in 1833. One major tactical controversy that developed among anti-slavery activists was that of colonization, or repatriation of blacks to Africa. This question became an issue in Britain during the late eighteenth century, and it drew the attention of black abolitionists in both the British Isles and the United States. Equiano was the first black British abolitionist drawn into the debate. At that time, colonization was a white-initiated, white-led movement, but many supporters were well-intentioned philanthropists. ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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