Who resisted and campaigned for abolition?

Manchester Cathedral, Victoria Street, Manchester

Manchester Cathedral, formerly the Collegiate Church

By 1787 Thomas Clarkson had become a fierce critic of the transatlantic slave trade. In October of that year he visited Manchester where he met local anti-slavery supporters, including Thomas Walker and Thomas Bayley.

Clarkson’s sermon

He was invited to preach a sermon at the Collegiate Church (later Manchester Cathedral), the town’s principal church. It proved to be an influential sermon, reported in the press, though at the time Clarkson was somewhat uncertain about speaking about a subject that was clearly political from a church pulpit.

Clarkson’s call for people to help in removing ‘the stain of the blood of Africa’ created by the transatlantic slave trade found its supporters. The sermon galvanised support in Manchester, the town becoming one of the key provincial centres for in the movement to abolish slavery. 

Manchester was to be in the forefront of organising petitions to parliament calling for the end of the transatlantic slave trade, and in the raising of money for the national campaign. The Manchester sermon also helped Clarkson to decide to commit himself to the cause. In the following years he became, alongside William Wilberforce and Granville Sharp, one of the leading abolitionists, who, twenty years after the Manchester sermon, gained their first major victory: the passing of the act that abolished the slave trade in British colonies.

Find out more about Clarkson's speech in our interactive drama, This Accursed Thing /video-drama.html.

This information was provided by Terry Wyke