20 March 2007

The Challenge Of Freedom

"Racism is the legacy of the trans-Atlantic slave trade."

That was the challenge from James Jones, Bishop of Liverpool, at this evening's Wilberforce Address, made all the more powerful by the presence on stage of the 18-member-strong gospel choir The Tribe Of Judah, who had just moments before been leading a celebration in praise of freedom, to mark the bicentenary of the abolition of the slave-trade.

He concluded his address by saying the country needs a new generation of men and women who can provide moral and political leadership.

David Cameron also spoke, answering questions during a mini "chat show" that what we need is not apology for a past generation's wrongs, but to learn from our shared history. He added that while it is right we should feel great shame for Britain's role in the slave-trade, we should also feel great pride in our role in bringing it to an end. He also noted that it is not political correctness for the Conservative Party to want to see more black and ethnic minority candidates in Parliament - it is a simple recognition of the need for role models in all walks of life.

3 comments:

Chris said...

I was beautifully reminded by one of the readings in the service of the controversial poem by the slave Phillis Wheatley (c. 1753-1784) "On Being Brought from Africa to America":

'Twas mercy brought me from my Pagan land
Taught my benighted soul to understand
That there's a God, that there's a Savior too;
Once I redemption neither sought nor knew.
Some view our sable race with scornful eye,
"Their colour is a diabolic dye."
Remember, Christians, negroes, black as Cain,
May be refin'd, and join th' angelic train.

Doughty Fan said...

Iain Dale has a great interview with Ken Wales, producer of Amazing Grace, the film about the life of Wilberforce, on 18 Doughty Street.

Emma E said...

Yes - "the country needs a new generation of men and women." John Coffey makes an important point in his article in The Difference commemorative edition, "A woman's place is in the campaign," when he notes: "During the critical early years of the campaign, from 1786 to 1792, abolitionist women share much of the credit for placing the slave trade on the national agenda."