|Wilberforce House museum|
Wilberforce was born in Kingston Upon Hull in 1759, the son of a wealthy merchant, and became MP for Yorkshire in 1784. A year later he converted to Evangelical Christianity and his religious beliefs led to a fervent support for philanthropy, in particular the plight of African slaves. His stance made him the target of many who believed he should have concentrated more on raising the standard of living for the poor at home in Britain.
A museum in his old home in Hull tells his life story, as well as focusing on the slavery that still exists in the world today. It has horrific tales of how slaves were treated. They were not seen as human by their owners, and before the passage of abolition laws were legally defined as property, not people. There are readings taken from contemporary sources such as slave ship captains, and the slaves themselves, some of whom managed to gain freedom. The descriptions of life on plantations, and during the long sea voyages that carried them from Africa to the West Indies are harrowing. Nevertheless, the topic is an important one and cannot be ignored.
Wherever you go in Hull it's hard to miss the city's pride in its son. There's a Wilberforce pub, and a Wilberforce Drive. Some local schools have named one of their houses after him. And there's a huge column outside Hull College with a statue of him on top of it.
If you'd like an easily digested version of his life story, can I recommend the film Amazing Grace, starring Ioan Gruffudd and Benedict Cumberbatch, which I found on Netflix, but I think it's also on YouTube.