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14 July 2014
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Abolition of the Slave Trade


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Who else was involved?

Revolt on a slave ship.

Slave resistance

Captives on slave ships crossing the Atlantic would take any opportunity to overpower the European crew and take over the ship. In the colonies, slaves resisted their owners in many ways, such as working slowly or badly, or damaging their owners’ property. Slaves escaped frequently, although on small islands in the Caribbean it was difficult to stay free for long. On large islands like Jamaica runaway slaves could hide in the dense forest for years. Some were able to join the Maroons, a community of runaways and native islanders, who had fought and won their independence from the British colony in Jamaica in 1738.

Former slave

Olaudah Equiano was a former slave who had bought his freedom and had moved to London. He spoke at public meetings where he described the horrors of the slave trade. He published his autobiography in 1789. It became a bestseller. In his book Equiano claimed to have been born in the area known as ‘Eboe ’ in Guinea, West Africa, but there is evidence to suggest that he was born in South Carolina, one of the North American colonies. However, an ex-slave’s biography would have had less effect on its readers if it did not describe the subject’s capture by slave traders and the horrors of the Middle Passage.

People’s campaign

In Britain, many people attended meetings organised by abolitionist groups, signed petitions calling for an end to the slave trade, wore anti-slavery badges, and refused to buy products from Caribbean or North American colonies where slave labour was used. At this time, few Britons could vote but thousands of ordinary men and women expressed their hostility to the slave trade even when their jobs depended on trade with the slave-owning colonies.


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