“They call that the Slave Tree,” my missionary friend said as he pointed to a large tree across the street from our
parking spot. “It’s where the slave traders gathered Africans for transport to the coast and then to England and eventually America.” We sat silently for a few moments not capable of understanding the depth of human depravity that would allow such a thing as the buying and selling of human flesh.
The tree is located in Ndola, Zambia, over 800 miles from the port of Dar es Salaam from whence the slaves were shipped. It was an ugly time in human history that lasted longer than you think and was more difficult to end than most people realize.
We don’t think much about human slavery these days. We believe it was an aberration in human history that pretty much ended when Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863. Not true.
The demise of this horrible trade in human flesh began in the late 1700s when William Wilberforce and a few brave men and women stood up to the financial and political powers of Great Britain. Wilberforce’s lonely twenty-year crusade ended in March 1807 when the British Parliament abolished slavery on their soil. The years of stress tested his resolve and cost him his health, yet few men have changed human history as profoundly he did.
You can see his story in a marvelous movie that ran several years ago titled Amazing Grace. It features an appearance by famous British actor Albert Finney who plays the part of John Newton; the slave trader/reprobate turned minister who wrote the famous hymn Amazing Grace.
The sad part of the movie is that the work of Wilberforce has only just begun. Slavery still exists around the world. The slavers no longer march their chattel to some big tree and hold them for shipment. Instead, they are held in debt bondage/bonded labor. It is a system in which a person becomes bonded by accepting a loan from a moneylender, for which they must work to repay. Workers are then tricked or trapped into laboring for little or no pay, under conditions that violate their human rights from which they cannot escape.
According to FreetheSlaves.net, the vast majority of the world’s slaves are in South Asia (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Nepal). Most of these slaves work in agriculture, brick making, or other industries that feed into the local economy of their country. Other slaves are bonded into working at factories that produce export items for the global market, such as oriental rugs, diamonds, and silk. They also report that there are large numbers of slaves in some areas of Africa and South America, and the recent increase in human trafficking is bringing slavery to many countries in Europe, North America, and Southeast Asia.
Back to William Wilberforce. He did much more than force England to cease the slave trade. He sold his home and dismissed servants to have more money to give to the needy. He fought for prison reform. He founded or participated in sixty charities. He convinced King George III to reissue a proclamation encouraging virtue and reinstated the Proclamation Society to help see such virtue encouraged. He founded the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and championed missionary efforts like the founding of the British and Foreign Bible Society.
He is a unique man in world history. You need to know his story. CLICK HERE for more.
For more information about the movie, go to www.amazinggracemovie.com.