Thomas Clarkson was born on 28 March 1760 in Wisbech, Cambridgeshire. He was the son of a clergyman who also taught at the local grammar school. In 1779, Clarkson went to Cambridge University where he won a Latin essay competition on the subject of whether it was lawful to make slaves of others against their will.
While travelling from Cambridge to London in June 1785, Clarkson found himself thinking not about the competition, nor about the promising church career awaiting him, but about slavery. Ending slavery became his driving passion for the remainder of his life. He translated his prize-winning essay into English and it was published in 1786. The essay attracted a lot of attention and enabled him to meet other abolitionists including Granville Sharp.
In 1787, Clarkson was instrumental in forming the Committee for the Abolition of the African Slave Trade. The Committee helped to persuade the Member of Parliament William Wilberforce to take up the abolitionist cause. Clarkson's task was to collect information for the committee to present to parliament and the public. He devoted his time and energy to travelling around Britain, gathering evidence about the slave trade.
After years of hard work by the Clarkson’s, Sharp, Wilberforce and many others, the slave trade was abolished in the British Empire in 1807. In 1833, parliament passed the Slavery Abolition Act, which gave all slaves in the British Empire their freedom. Clarkson died on 26 September 1846.
Granville Sharp was born on 10 November 1735 in Durham. He was one of eight children and his father was a clergyman. At 15, Sharp was apprenticed to a London linen draper and then went to work as a civil servant. He had a variety of interests, including theology, for which he taught himself Greek and Latin, and music. He and his brothers and sisters often gave concerts together.
His interest in slavery began in 1765 after he befriended Jonathan Strong, a slave who had...