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An unsung hero for social reform
There are a handful of names associated with the abolitionist movement that most everyone knowsAbraham Lincoln, Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass. But history seems to have nearly forgotten one nameWilliam Wilberforce. Author Eric Metaxas chronicles the intriguing life and towering accomplishments of Wilberforce in his biography Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery.
Despite his slight physical stature, Wilberforce made a Herculean contribution to society, as he nearly single-handedly ended the British Empire's slave trade in 1807, thereby paving the way for emancipation in 1833. Living in an era when slavery was ensconced as a social norm, Wilberforce found himself in the midst of a spiritual awakeninga personal transformation that he referred to as his "Great Change." Though he was one of the most talented and well connected men of his time, Wilberforce's success is most firmly connected to his deep-seated belief in the equality of all men in the eyes of God.
The Cambridge-educated Wilberforce secured a position in the House of Commons by the age of 21, and soon heard God's calling for his life and became the foremost political leader and public figure of the abolitionist movement in England. He persistently led the fight for 20 long years, despite violent opposition from pro-slavery groups who felt that the slave trade was an integral part of Britain's economy. Never yielding to the hostility he faced, as his adversaries targeted him with public ridicule, personal attacks and even a challenge to a duel, Wilberforce forged ahead, becoming the moral conscience of his country.
This year marks the bicentennial of Wilberforce's accomplishment, and Amazing Grace serves as the companion book to a recently released feature film by the same name. Metaxas tells Wilberforce's story with a charm and energy reminiscent of a favorite history professor, painting a captivating picture of this era of social reform that revolutionized the world.