Tony Grist (poliphilo) wrote,
Tony Grist

William Wilberforce

A long time ago- when I was learning history in school- I was given to understand that slavery was a bad thing that used to happen in exotic, foreign places like ancient Rome and the American deep South and then along came a brave, white Englishman called William Wilberforce and put a stop to it.

There's a new film coming out about Mr Wilberforce. He's played by that amazingly handsome Welsh actor who used to be Hornblower. In a clip I saw on the telly Hornblower/Wilberforce was the only guy wearing his own hair in a parliament full of smelly, old men in powdered wigs.

The real Wilberforce was a funny, ugly, little, religious person (he was about 5 ft tall)  with weird, puritanical views, who wanted to convert the heathen and shut down the theatres.  And, no, he didn't fight slavery single-handed.  He wasn't even the main man. 

And he didn't even end slavery. He stopped the tranatlantic slave trade- which was a step in the right direction, but that's all. 

Which isn't to say he wasn't a great man; he was. It's just- oh I don't know- the real story is almost always more interesting than the myth and it was John Wayne not Jimmy Stewart who shot Liberty Valance. 

And the other thing that gets me is how these stories are always dramatised as stories of white heroism. Remember Spielberg's Amistad? A black guy leads a below decks' revolt and captures the slave ship- what a film that would make!  But who does Spielberg  focus on? The black guy's hunkadelic, white, fuckin' lawyer and some white, fuckin' former American president who gets to deliver a grossly unhistorical speech about freedom.

Oh, come on. we're grown ups, aren't we?  Please give it to us as it really was.

Image:William Wilberforce.jpg

Phwooar, what a babe!

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