Listen-and-Read-Along MY HERO Stories - for ESL

William Wilberforce

by Vickie from Spokane

“Let everyone regulate his conduct . . . by the golden rule of doing to others as in similar circumstances we would have them do to us, and the path of duty will be clear before him.”
William Wilberforce (MSN Encarta)
William Wilberforce (MSN Encarta)

Inspired by his Christian faith, William Wilberforce persisted against the powerful slave trade, worked within the government system, and through his and others’ unrelenting determination, managed to end slavery in the British Empire in the 1800’s. This man inspires me because he was faithful to his spiritual beliefs and showed it by his actions in the real world. He faced defeat after defeat and yet continued to be responsible to God and his country by working to end human suffering and promote justice.

Unlike many social cause champions, he did not have to overcome educational or financial hardships. He came from a prominent, affluent family and was educated at St. John’s College, Cambridge. With a witty and engaging personality that attracted friends, he preferred the night life and was not a very serious student. He managed, however, to graduate and he entered politics due to his political connections but did not do much there until his encounter with God.

<a href=>Slave Ship Drawing</a>
Slave Ship Drawing

What was it that made this man so determined? His life ambitions changed dramatically in 1786 when he had a spiritual rebirth and began to see his life’s work come into focus. His pursuit of pleasing himself made an abrupt turn and he became committed to helping others. Although he suffered lengthy bouts of ill health throughout his life, he would not let this deter him from pursuing what he felt was his life’s calling which was ending the slave trade. In 1789 William and fellow legislator Thomas Clarkson, began to write resolutions against the slave trade which were blocked by members of Parliament who had vested interests. All their bills were defeated from 1791 through 1805. Their persistence finally paid off when he received word, while on his death bed, that final passage of the latest bill was ensured. Finally, in 1807, the slave trade in British Empire was abolished.

William Wilberforce exemplifies at least two of the pillars of Character Counts, caring and citizenship. His compassion for the slaves brought to England in the 1700’s drove him into action and as a Member of Parliament he took responsibility to propose legislation to abolish the slave trade. This was the first real government legislation anywhere in the world to prohibit slavery and is noted as one of the turning points in human history.

I am inspired by him to look within myself and chart my course of action based upon my beliefs. I am challenged to ensure that I make every effort to live out my faith through actions that make a difference in the lives of others. William Wilberforce showed us how to live out faith by caring for others and by using his position in Parliament responsibly to effect change.

Amazing Grace. (2007) (Website for the movie made about Wilberforce.). Retrieved July 17, 2007, from Bristol Bay Productions LLC:

Christianity Today. (2007). Christian history & biography (William Wilberforce Article). Retrieved July 16, 2007, from Christianity Today: <>.

Metaxas, E. (2007). Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery. New York: HarperSanFrancisco.

William Wilberforce Quotes. (1999-2006). Retrieved July 17, 2007, from Quotations:

Page created on 11/8/2007 1:47:44 PM

Last edited 7/25/2018 11:25:27 PM

The beliefs, viewpoints and opinions expressed in this hero submission on the website are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the beliefs, viewpoints and opinions of The MY HERO Project and its staff.

Related Links

Amazing Grace - This site has excellent historical information and an educator's guide for classroom use as well as photos that bring this story to life.
William Wilberforce - BBC History
Parliament U.K. - You can access all about how the British slave trade was handled in Parliament here.
British Library - The Campaign for Change - The slave trade - a historical background
Wilberforce University - predominantly African-American private university in the nation.