Saturday, 24 July 2010

abolition and a local boy: Clarkson remembered in feast

click to go to Ian Black's blogIn this week's Church Times, Canon Ian Black reports on a decision by the General Synod to "change the lesser festival commemorating William Wilberforce on 30 July by adding two other anti-slavery campaigners: Thomas Clarkson and Olaudah Equiano". The CofE's Revision Committee decided last year to :

retain a single Lesser Festival for Wilberforce and anti-slaclick to go to the Wilberforce Central websitevery campaigners, name Wilberforce first with the designation ‘social reformer’, add the names of Equiano and Clarkson, and apply the designation ‘anti-slavery campaigner’ to all three.


Wilberforce (1784-1812) was, of course, the Yorkshire MP who championed the abolitionist cause.

click to go to Olaudah Equiano's page on the 100 Great Black Britons siteOlaudah Equiano (1745-1797), from what is modern Benin, was stolen by African slave-traders and sold to their European equivalents. After being freed, his literate and literary autobiography, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olauday Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, The African, Written by Himself, opened people's eyes to the realities of slavery - one example is his destressing description of his feelings as a slave-ship bore him from Africa to America:
What tumultuous emotions agitated my soul when the convoy got under sail, and I a prisoner on board, now without hope! I kept my swimming eyes upon the land in a state of unutterable grief; not knowing what to do, and despairing how to help myself. While my mind was in this situation the fleet sailed on, and in one day's time I lost sight of the wished-for land. In the first expressions of my grief I reproached my fate, and wished I had never been born. I was ready to curse the tide that bore us, the gale that wafted my prison, and even the ship that conducted us; and I called on death to relieve me from the horrors I felt and dreaded...
go to the Thomas Clarkson pages at the Wisbech & Fenland Museum siteThomas Clarkson (1760-1846) is a more local character: after school in his native Wisbech, he went up to St John's College in Cambridge, where he recieved a BA. There, he entered an essay competition on the theme Is it lawful to enslave the unconsenting? His research for the essay, which won him the competition, set him on the course that the rest of his life would follow. The Wisbech & Fenland Museum has a collection devoted to him, and Cambridge has a Clarkson Road, on which his beloved University has built the Wolfson Court, an annexe of Girton College, and also the Isaac Newton Institute for Mathematical Sciences.

UPDATE: I read on Cambridgeshire blogger Ellee Seymour's site that Olaudah Equiano also had Cambridgeshire connections, having married a Soham woman after buying his freedom. Read more on her post Alan Brigham's Tour of Chesterton.


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