Who was William Wilberforce? Facts and Information

Here are some facts about William Wilberforce, the English politician, social reformer and a key campaigner for the abolition of slavery.

  • William Wilberforce was born on 24th August 1759.
  • He attended Cambridge University and became really good friends with William Pitt, the future Prime Minister.

  • In 1780 Wilberforce became Member of Parliament for Hull, and he served as an MP until 1812.
  • In 1785 he became an evangelical Christian, and he made some dramatic changes to his lifestyle.
  • He joined a religious group called the Clapham Sect and he became increasingly interested in social issues and reform.
  • Influenced by Thomas Clarkson and other anti-slave activists, Wilberforce started to campaign for the abolition of the slave trade. He raised the issue in Parliament many times and became known as one of the most important English abolitionists.
  • William Wilberforce was partly responsible for Slave Trade Act (1807), which made the slave trade illegal.
  • The Slave Trade Act of 1807 didn’t free those individuals who were enslaved before 1807. Freedom was granted to all of the slaves in the British Empire in 1833, following the Slavery Abolition Act.
  • William Wilberforce died on 29th July 1833, just a few days after the Slavery Abolition Act passed through the House of Commons on its way to becoming part of the law.
  • Wilberforce was also a member of the Society for the Suppression of Vice and he supported British missionary work in India.
  • He worked with the Church Mission Society and the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and was involved in the Association for the Better Observance of Sunday, to improve the health, education and spiritual upbringing of children.
  • William Wilberforce is buried in Westminster Abbey, near to his close friend, William Pitt the Younger.