Saturday, February 17, 2007

Wilberforce, "Amazing Grace," and the end of slavery

The older I get (and the more conservative my theology becomes), the less interest I have in movies. I am, however, planning to go see the new film "Amazing Grace" based on the life of William Wilberforce and his fight to end slavery in the British Empire. It opens February 23.

This morning there was an interesting interview with Adam Hochschild, author of Bury the Chains on NPR's Weekend Edition in light of the movie's release and the 200th anniversary of Britain's abolition of slavery. Hochschild's affirmation of the new film was tepid to say the least. Oddly enough, he nearly completely ignored speaking about Wilberforce (arguing instead for slave revolts in the West Indies and a British populist movement as bringing the end of slavery). He also seemed intent on besmirching the legacy of John Newton. The interview is titled "Ending Salvery in Britain: A Shifting View of History." Indeed, there seems to be a move afoot to erase the evangelical Christians roots of the abolitionist movement (couched in terms of eliminating British colonial self-congratulation; listen to an earlier interview on NPR with Hochschild here when Bury the Chains was released). For a corrective to Hochschild, see Rodney Starks' account of the end of slavery in For the Glory of God.


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