Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery
T minus 10 days and counting…for final submission of History Lives 4 to the publisher. And the astronauts are sequestered now to focus on their preparation and to avoid picking up any nasty viruses that might hinder timely takeoff. But I can’t resist taking 5 minutes to recommend a book discovered in our research.
Don’t think less of me for not getting on the Wilberforce bandwagon sooner. We haven’t seen the movie yet, because we didn’t want it to influence our research for our chapter on Wilberforce. But we discovered that a companion book was commissioned, and lo and behold, it’s actually really good. Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery is highly readable, interesting, revealing, and alternately (and appropriately) both revolting and humorous. I know author Eric Metaxas as a children’s author and collaborator on the Veggie Tales projects, and was surprised and appreciative to discover his talent for biography.
I’m a big fan of indexes; disappointingly, this volume has none. But the introduction alone makes up for this flaw—I urge you to read it even if you don’t read the rest of the volume (though I bet once you sit down with it you won’t get up til the end). It explains just why Wilberforce’s campaign was so impossible and thus his eventual success was truly “amazing.” And don’t miss chapter 6, “The Second Great Object: The Reformation of Manners,” which provides a clear snapshot of eighteenth-century British society—the REAL one, not the Jane Austen ideal (someday I’ll do a post about that). Another treat is the collection of images—Wilberforce at various ages, and his best friend Prime Minister Pitt (both of whom should have been romantic poets, if appearances were to dictate career); their colleague known as G#; the brilliant and unmarried “Mrs.” Hannah More; the truly horrifying slave ship plans that played a role in swaying public opinion; and the “logo” for their grassroots campaign, a ceramic piece created by none other than Josiah Wedgwood.
If, like me, you pretty much ignored all the Wilberforce hype at the time of the movie release, skip the other books out there and pick up this one. You’ll get the real story about why this eighteenth-century whipper-snapper MP from York is currently inspiring American kids to social action.