The abolition of the slave trade and slavery in the British Empire

On March 25, 1807, the Act for the Abolition of the Slave Trade received royal assent and became law throughout the British Empire. It was the result of a long and arduous campaign in the British Parliament led by William Wilberforce, M.P. (1759-1833), and supported by an alliance of Evangelical Anglicans, Quakers, and Black Abolitionists.

The 1807 Act did not abolish enslavement itself, but prohibited the trafficking of people. This was an incremental step toward the recognition of the damaging effects of enslavement and its abolition in the British Empire in 1833.

Abolishment of slavery

On August 28, 1833, the Act for the Abolition of Slavery throughout the British Colonies received royal assent and became law throughout the British Empire. The Act came into force on August 1, 1834.

Abolishment of slavery in Canada

Upper Canada, now Ontario, was a pioneer in this movement. In 1793, Governor John Graves Simcoe passed the Anti-slavery Act. This law freed enslaved people aged 25 and over and made it illegal to bring enslaved people into Upper Canada. The Abolition Act in Upper Canada and court decisions in Nova Scotia in the 1790s contributed greatly to a decline of African enslavement in Canada, and made Canada a safe haven for those seeking freedom and an important base for the abolitionist movement. In doing so, it brought about the creation of the Underground Railroad through which approximately 30,000 Black people escaped to British North America between 1800 and 1865.

In 2008, the Government of Canada commemorated the 175th anniversary of the Act for the Abolition of Slavery in the British Empire to recognize the courageous efforts of the many men and women who succeeded against considerable odds in the fight for freedom and human dignity.

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