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Sons of Africa: The early political group formed in the 1700s by freed slaves in London

June 08, 2018 at 10:30 am | History

Mildred Europa Taylor

Mildred Europa Taylor | Staff Writer

June 08, 2018 at 10:30 am | History

Slave ships in London --- Royal Museums Greenwich

In the late 18th century, London was developing amidst wealth from the boom in the trans-Atlantic Slave trade, the greatest crime against humanity that Britain was heavily involved in.

Major institutions in London, from the banks to museums, made huge profits from the slave trade which dated back to the 16th century.

But at the same time, there was also a rise in the number of abolition organisations that demanded an end to the slave trade.

This is in spite of the fierce opposition they faced from those who were making great sums of money from the trade.

Apart from the Quakers, one of the abolitionist groups that made significant progress in the fight against the slave trade was Sons of Africa.

This group was made up of Africans who had been freed from slavery and were living in London, with prominent members being Ottobah Cugoano and Olaudah Equiano.

With the highly educated members, the Sons were able to express issues against slave trade directly to the public in lectures or in print through several newspapers to provoke debate.

This, along with their ties to the Society for the Abolition of the Slave Trade of 1787, including both Quakers and Anglicans, gave Sons of Africa the desired reach.

Educating the Black poor of London, the group also campaigned against colonization in Sierra Leone.

With the sort of literacy in its membership, the organization was able to send petitions to parliaments as part of their campaign to end the slave trade.

London and slave trade — Royal Museums Greenwich

One of its greatest achievements was in 1788 when the group managed to get an MP, Sir William Dolben to pass a bill to improve conditions on slave ships.

The Slave Act 1788 became the first law passed to regulate the slave trade, and in turn to create standards of how many slaves could be carried in relation to ship size.

Olaudah Equiano

One of the leaders of the group, Olaudah Equiano also led delegations from the group to Parliament to persuade MPs to abolish the international slave trade in the British colonies.

This was achieved under the Slave Trade Act 1807, which applied to all colonies except India.

As part of the legislation, Britain was to use naval force to enforce the law, and through that, it started to intercept illegal slave ships off the coast of Africa.

The Sons of Africa continued to campaign against slavery in the British colonies, debunking many of the misconceptions that were then held by white people about Africans.

Its leaders, Cugoano and Equiano also released published works about the need for abolition of slavery in England and its territories.

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