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William Wilberforce was one of the leaders of the abolitionist movement in Great Britain in the late 1700’s and early 1800’s. He was born into a wealthy family in 1759. On a holiday on the European continent in 1784, Wilberforce underwent a spiritual rebirth that changed his life and led him to become an evangelical Christian. This spiritual conversion led him to change his lifestyle and began his lifelong concern for reform, particularly his desire to see the end of the slave trade and of slavery. He became one of the leaders of a group of evangelical social reformers known as the “Clapham Sect”. In the House of Commons, he became the chief spokesman for the abolition of slavery and worked tirelessly to see the end of slavery. The chief result of his efforts was the passage of the Slave Trade Act of 1807 which ended the slave trade in the British Empire, but not slavery itself. He continued his struggle to end slavery and sponsored the establishment of the Anti-Slavery Society in 1823. William Wilberforce died July 29, 1833, one month before the passage of the act of Parliament that abolished slavery throughout the British Empire.
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