Online exhibition traces origins of slave trade abolition

By staff writers
March 16, 2007

Quakers in Britain have launched an online exhibition of archived resources tracing the history of the anti slavery movement from its Quaker beginnings to the passing of the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act in 1807 and beyond.

The campaign to end the slave trade can be traced back to a handful of Quakers (members of the Religious Society of Friends, also known as Friends) in the late 1600s, at a time when very few questioned the rightness of slavery. Quakers saw the trade as a violation of a fundamental belief that everyone is equal in the sight of God. No person has the right to own another.

The exhibition from the Library of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) is illustrated with photographs of original documents from its collections, and highlights some of the key events in the Quaker history of opposition to slavery and the slave trade.

Extracts from primary sources can be viewed online for the first time, along with quotations from Quaker activists dating back as far as 1657. Their efforts led to the Society of Friends expressing its formal opposition to the slave trade in 1727.

The display includes photographs and explanations of pottery from the era decorated with campaign slogans, by prominent abolitionist Josiah Wedgwood. It also explains the important role played by Quaker women abolitionists, who despite being disenfranchised, campaigned tirelessly through writing and poetry.

The exhibition gives an important insight into the evolution of the first ever human rights movement, which pioneered such contemporary tactics such as boycotting, petitions, leafletting and poster campaigns.

Michael Hutchinson, general secretary of Quaker Life, said: "We are delighted to launch our virtual exhibition to commemorate this important event. It will be an invaluable resource for schools, historians, researchers, activists and anyone interested in the development of campaign movements."

The exhibition can be viewed at

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