For release: January 8, 2007
Contact: Sheila Weber (646-322-6853)
John Templeton Foundation Backs New Documentary to
Make William Wilberforce a Household Name
To coincide with 200th anniversary of abolition of
U.S. and U.K. slave trade
New York, NY. The John Templeton Foundation (www.templeton.org)
recently awarded a major grant to fund a new documentary
film, "The Better Hour," to make William Wilberforce a
household name again, as he was 200 years ago. The TWC
Films documentary, "THE BETTER HOUR: The Legacy
of William Wilberforce" (www.thebetterhour.com)
is targeted for national broadcast and DVD in early 2008, and will focus on the character of
British Parliamentarian William Wilberforce - who worked
heroically for 20 years for the abolition of the Trans
Atlantic slave trade.
"The Better Hour documentary" will provide a more in-depth
resource for the growing interest among church and
anti-slavery groups, anticipated to increase upon the
February 23, 2007 release of Bristol Bay Productions'
major motion picture "Amazing Grace," starring Iaon
Gruffud as Wilberforce and Albert Finney as John Newton.
William Wilberforce was well known, even in America, in
the early 1800s, after having led the 20 year effort,
against all economic odds, that ended the Trans Atlantic
Slave Trade, effective May, 1807 in England and January,
1808 in the United States. (British Royal Assent was
given on March 25, 1807; U.S. legislation was signed by
Thomas Jefferson on March 2, 1807.)
Interest in Wilberforce is rapidly growing in England.
Last November, Prime Minister Tony Blair issued a
statement of regret for the British slave trade. In a New Year's Day
broadcast on BBC, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr.
Rowan Williams, commended Wilberforce and his colleagues
for fighting for justice and human rights.
This month, two upcoming "Wilberforce Weekend" events
will feature a joint presentation by both film
companies. The Wilberforce Project (www.wilberforcecentral.org)
and Bristol Bay Productions (www.amazinggracemovie.com)
will each explain how they have worked in concert to
make William Wilberforce a household name again. The
first Wilberforce Weekend, January 12-14 in Lansdowne,
Virginia, is sponsored by the Wilberforce Forum, the
think tank division of Prison Fellowship, founded by
Chuck Colson. The second Wilberforce Weekend, January
19-21 in Osprey Point, Maryland, is sponsored by the
Trinity Forum Academy, a division of the Trinity Forum,
that trains young Christians to impact contemporary
The British Parliamentarian, William Wilberforce, was
directly responsible not only for the legislation
abolishing the British Slave Trade 200 years ago, but
heavily influenced the same legislation in the U.S. In
addition, Wilberforce was responsible for the beginning
of the modern human rights movement, the women's
suffrage movement, the first child labor laws, prison
reform, a more human penal code, and the founding of 69
philanthropic societies in late 18th century England.
"William Wilberforce's political career is a case study
that merits attention," said Chuck Stetson, chairman of
The Wilberforce Project. "While Wilberforce's name is
virtually unknown in the modern United States, with
approximately a 3 percent recognition factor in the U.S.
and 10 percent in the U.K., Wilberforce was once
acknowledged by Abraham Lincoln in 1858 as a person that
'every school boy' knew," explained Stetson. The
emancipation leader Frederick Douglass saluted the
energy of Wilberforce "that finally thawed the British
heart into sympathy for the slave, and moved the strong
arm of government in mercy to put an end to this
bondage. Let no American, especially no colored
American, withhold generous recognition of this
stupendous achievement -- a triumph of right over wrong,
of good over evil, and a victory for the whole human
race." In 1833 when Wilberforce died, the Free Blacks in
America were urged by their leaders to wear black arm
bands for 30 days as a sign of mourning, said Stetson.
In 1856, the first historically black university in
America in Dayton, Ohio was named Wilberforce
The John Templeton Foundation grant also included
funding for a national essay contest for youth, to
launch in September 2007, with awards made by spring of
More information about attending the January 12-14
Wilberforce Weekend can be obtained from Martha Anderson
Martha_anderson@pfm.org, and about the January 19-21
Wilberforce Weekend by contacting Aimee Beach at
For more information on other worldwide events, go to
Calendar of Major Events in 2007
January 19-21. Wilberforce Weekend: A Look at World Changing Faith, sponsored by the Trinity Forum at the Osprey Point Retreat and Conference Center, Royal Oak, Maryland. Registration at http://www.ttf.org/index/academy/events-detail/wilberforce-weekend/
February 15th, 4:30 p.m. Gilder Lehrman Center, Yale University
A Colony of Citizens Book Talk and Discussion with the Author. Laurent Dubois, Associate Professor of History at Michigan State University, discusses his 2005 Frederick Douglass Prize-winning book
A Colony of Citizens: Revolution and Slave Emancipation in the French Caribbean, 1787-1804,
which positions events in Guadeloupe within a larger framework and suggests the complex fruits of emancipation in the French Caribbean and the Atlantic World.
February 23rd. Bristol Bay Productions releases motion picture "Amazing Grace" in U.S. theaters, starring Ioan Gruffudd as William Wilberforce and Albert Finney as John Newton. See
February 23-24th: The Victoria & Albert Museum will be holding a two-day conference: From Cane Field to Tea-Cup: The Impact of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade on Art, to commemorate the 1807 anniversary. The conference will look at the links between the trade, slaves and slavery and the production and collection of domestic and decorative artifacts, including furniture, ceramics, metalwork, textiles, sculpture, architecture, prints and paintings. (dates to be determined) Also currently on display: Asante Goldweights from Ghana (Metalware, Room 116) which mark the bicentenary of the abolition of the slave trade and 50 years of independence of Ghana.
Bristol Bay Productions releases motion picture "Amazing Grace" in theaters in the United Kingdom,
starring Ioan Gruffudd as William Wilberforce and Albert Finney as John Newton. (U.K. date to be determined) See
BBC - season of programs on BBC channels on the abolition of slave trade.
Series of British Commemorative Stamps to go into circulation.
William Wilberforce's famous abolitionist speech to Parliament, along with other selected texts, will be performed in central London, sponsored by the Commission for Racial Equality.
March 5, 6, and 7th. Gilder Lehrman Center, Yale University. Principles and Agents: The British Slave Trade and its Abolition.
The Third Annual David Brion Davis Lecture Series on the History of Slavery, Race, and Their Legacies. P. David Richardson, Director of the Wilberforce Institute for the study of Slavery and Emancipation presents a three-part lecture series commemorating the 200th anniversary of the British abolition of the slave trade. Monday, March 5: lecture and opening reception at the Beinecke Mezzanine, "Growth and Expansion of the British Slave Trade, 1660-1807." Tuesday, March 6: lecture location TBD, "African Agency in the Slave Trade." Wednesday, March 7: lecture location TBD, "Ideology, Politics, and British Abolitionism, c.1780-1807."
March 25th (Anniversary of Abolition of Slavery in Britain)
Birmingham Bicentenary Sunday Service, led by the Council of Black Led Churches, organized by Birmingham Churches Together, at 6 p.m. in the Bethel Convention Center, West Bromwich, England. Seating reservations needed. Contact:
March 25th: Grand re-opening of Wilberforce House Museum.
The historic home of William Wilberforce is being upgraded and all new exhibitions will be introduced. The Council owned Wilberforce House Museum, the first Museum in Britain to tackle the subject of Slavery and Abolition, is 100 years old in 2006 and was last updated in 1983 (for the 150th Anniversary of Emancipation). New displays expanding the history of slavery, the role of Wilberforce and contemporary issues relating to the subject of slavery are all dealt with in the new development. Contact
March 25th: Freedom Day - not just as a celebration of history, but a moment to be inspired by the champions of history of the past to help us fight for freedom from the bondage of slavery through people trafficking.
March 27th. National Commemorative Service at Westminster Abbey at 12 noon. Invitation only; sponsored by Set All Free.
TELEVISION RELEASE for documentary film The Better Hour.
William Wilberforce: A Man of Character Who Changed the World. (Date to be determined)
May 16-19. Conference at the University of Hull on the "Unfinished Business of Slavery." Wilberforce Institute for the Study of Slavery and Emancipation at the University of Hull in England.
Breaking the Chains Walkathon- communities all over the UK will walk to show their respect to those men, women and children that lived and died in bondage.
August 8-12: Major international conference in Ghana, West Africa.
Co-sponsored by the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition at Yale University (http://www.yale.edu/glc/) as well as the Wilberforce Institute for the Study of Slavery and Emancipation at University of Hull in England
http://www.hull.ac.uk/wise/2007.html among many other groups. More information on the conference can be found at
Museum Activities - A number of museums in the U.S. and U.K. will have exhibits on slavery in 2007 including - see www.wilberforcecentral.org/wfc/Museums/index.htm
Coalition members in WilberforceCentral.org include:
- Wilberforce University, the first black university in America
- The Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance and Abolition at Yale University
- Wilberforce Institute for the Study of Slavery and Emancipation at the University of Hull in England
- Walden Media, which recently produced the successful film "The Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe," and will be releasing through Bristol Bay Production on February 23, 2007 "Amazing Grace," a motion picture on the life of William Wilberforce;
- The Wilberforce Project, sponsor of www.wilberforcecentral.org.
- Set All Free, a coalition of churches in England focused on the abolition of modern slavery
- The Wilberforce House Museum, a project on Wilberforce and the Transatlantic Slave-Trade, with a new focus on the African perspective and contemporary themes;
- The Wilberforce Forum, a division of Prison Fellowship that focuses on issues which Wilberforce would be concerned with today, ranging from physical slavery in the Sudan to conditions in prisons around the world
- The Trinity Forum, an educational organization that hosts meetings for business leaders in the United States., Europe and Asia on such issues as character and philanthropy.
WilberforceCentral.org allows for other groups to join and participate with self-registry of their events as a "Co-operating Group."
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