Commissioned Research Article
Title: History, Heroes, Heroines And
Author: Hilary Claire
Produced by citizED
(supported by the Training and
Development Agency for Schools)
More information about the series of
Commissioned Research Articles can be
found at www.citized.info
HISTORY, HEROES, HEROINES AND CITIZENSHIP EDUCATION
This article describes a workshop session for primary student teachers, NQTs and
practising teachers in two conferences (ACT South West Conference, November 2006,
and both a.m. and p.m. at the Institute of Education conference, ‘Whose Story is it?
Creative approaches to the Teaching of History’, November 2006. At the ACT
conference, there were also some secondary student teachers in the group, who felt the
approach was relevant to KS3 pupils too. Altogether, just over 50 people have been part
of this workshop, in the three different sessions.
History: the purpose of the workshop was to help practitioners consider three
ii) motivations and contexts which explain change (ie historical cause)
iii) significance - an oft-neglected and sometimes poorly understood idea in primary
Citizenship education was addressed in the workshop through the following:
Through considering strategies which agents of change have adopted in the past, to
reflect on strategies which may be appropriate and productive in the contemporary
Through thinking how to empower children through understanding that heroes and
heroines on their own don’t achieve change: rather, one might promote a more
democratic understanding of how attitudes and behaviour change in a society, with
ordinary people as well as ‘big names’ playing their part
To consider why it is we memorialise some people, and ignore others, who may in
fact have made very important contributions. The implicit aim here is to counter
uninformed hero-worship, and encourage pupils to question and think critically about
From this, to consider multiple agency in change and promote mutual understanding
and respect in our multicultural nation. This would be achieved through
foregrounding the often marginalised history of black people in a specific British
campaign, in which blacks have been conventionally represented as victims rather
THE FORMAT OF THE WORKSHOP
The sessions need a minimum of an hour, and in practice took one and a half hours – and
could have gone on longer. Other than the photocopied material (see Appendix 1) all you
need is a flip chart and pens.
Participants took their places in a circle of chairs and after brief introductions, I addressed
them in role as the leader of a small council (either local authority or small town-
whichever they preferred):
Councillors, as you know, we have been allocated a sum of money to
commemorate the bicentenary of the abolition of the slave trade in 1807. We have
already had some meetings about this, and decided that we would like to
commemorate the emancipation of British slaves in 1838, as well as the ending of
the trade. We are here today to decide how to spend the money, and today I have
brought a short list of six people who have been proposed as worthy of our
These names were already written on the flip chart - William Wilberforce, Elizabeth
Heyrick, Sam Sharpe, Mary Prince, Olaudah Equiano, Thomas Clarkson.
At this point, I came out of role and reminded the group that there are more people who
could have been included; that six is a convenient number for a workshop like this, but
that in class they might well have their pupils researching and learning about many
others. I also asked which names were already familiar. Wilberforce was known to
everyone. A few people had heard of Equiano, and only one or two had heard of any of
the others. I asked the group to hold this information in their heads for the moment, so
that they could reflect on the construction of history which had marginalised so many. I
also asked the participants to consider the race/sex and class background of my six names
and pointed out that the spread was deliberate. If we wished to have an impact on how
our pupils understood agency and significance, we had to ensure that they came across a
wider variety of protagonists than the conventional curriculum offered.
We quickly noted the following
Equiano Black male, ex slave, converted to
Christianity as an adult, self educated
Wilberforce White male, upper class, privileged,
evangelical Christian, Oxford educated,
friend of the Prime Minister William Pitt
Thomas White male, upper class, privileged, devout
Clarkson Christian, educated at Cambridge
Mary Black female, ex slave, not literate, brought
Prince as slave to England
Sam Sharpe Black male, ex slave, devout Christian –
Baptist, educated, lived in Jamaica
Elizabeth Not very much known about her; middle
Heyrick class white female, educated, literate.
Back in role as the leader of the council I said
So far councillors, we have been asked to consider a memorial to one of our short
list. What we need to do today is determine what our criteria should be, and then
decide who we will select. Please can someone in each small group take notes of
the way your deliberations are going. Any questions?
Working in threes (and in pairs in one session), participants chose any two names from
the chart. I marked up who had been chosen, so that we had an even spread.
The group were now given short bibliographies about their chosen people which they
read and considered. These are reproduced as an appendix at the end of this article.
Meanwhile, I prepared flip chart sheets as follows:
Initials Pro Con
I pulled the group together after some 10-15 minutes. (I played this by ear, different
groups need longer, and those that had completed the task were given some of the other
biographies to read while they waited.)
A group volunteered to start us off. As they offered their thoughts about the people they’d
considered (with whoever else who had looked at that biography adding anything extra) I
made notes in the columns on the flip chart. Sometimes I had to ask whether a statement
was regarded as a ‘pro’ or a ‘con’!
CONSIDERING THE INDIVIDUALS AND DEVELOPING CRITERIA
A sample of some of the thinking that emerged follows and shows the sophistication and
thoughtfulness that the different participants brought to this exercise. The comments I
have included here are an amalgam from the 3 workshops, and don’t necessarily
represent what any one pair/trio said about an individual:
Person Pro Con
OE A catalyst for change; ‘broke the mould’ and achieved recognition for capabilities and qualities Was he a self publicist? The South
of an intellectual black person (often previously seen as incapable and primitive); had American episode is peculiar. Here
credibility from his own experience; importance of Christian discourse in a religious society; he is working with slaves without
worked tirelessly through lecturing and touring; raised consciousness about economic challenging the institution; a
advantages to whites of slavery; a man of vision against racism gradualist
EH A woman in a man’s world – courageous in facing sexism of the time; a mature woman and a Was she charismatic? Hard to tell!
leader, but worked collaboratively with other women; representative of man; tenacious, radical,
not content to let the issue go slowly;kick started the ‘immediate emancipation’ campaign;
fought against prejudice against women as well as against black people; established groups
which took on other issues; ahead of her time; clever – used financial clout; compassionate; uses
networking and encourages other women; stands up to William Wilberforce, clear about her
priorities – slavery must go now and uses financial means to push the recalcitrant men
SS He aimed for a peaceful strike, though he envisaged that it might deteriorate into violence. Was Not in England; already as a
he ‘pushed’ into violence? What is our reaction to violence? There is an emotional impact to his memorial in Jamaica (but perhaps
story which is worth bringing into the open. He was a ‘man on the ground’ struggling to change we shouldn’t dismiss his importance
conditions for his own people. He had guts and humanity. His words on the gallows resonate because of that – the Baptist
with what Mandela said at his trial, about being prepared to die rather than live in slavery. He Rebellion was a key moment in
fought for equality and what he believed in. He used the language of Christianity to bring swinging Parliament towards
Christian double-thinking about blacks and humanity into question emancipation); used violence
MP Non violent; rose above oppression; represented experience of female slaves; prepared to make Was she pushed into the limelight by
her personal story something universal; humanised and articulated the oppression of female others?
slaves; a symbol of hope; made a difference through writing; position as a black woman who Is there a sting in the tail of
had experienced slavery should be commemorated; emotional impact of her story; first hand commemorating Mary Prince – are
experience influential. Introduces racism and sexism through her experience and confronts them we commemorating victimhood?
TC Used his status and his position; worked through democratic processes; reminds us of the power Not for all-out abolition of slavery –
of working within the institution; did the detailed, unglamorous work of evidence collection that was this strategic? Did the
is necessary in a campaign – back room stuff which people forget about; was it dangerous – he pamphlets actually work in
went everywhere to collect evidence; he seemed to be on radical wing, though a gradualist; no persuading people? It reminds us we
personal gain here, just conviction; tenacious, still going in the emancipation campaign, having need to know more about people,
weathered the abolition campaign and not come to hasty conclusions.
WW Very influential; had a passion for social reform; went against the Tory Party that he belonged in Gradualist who believed slaves had
and stood up against predominamnt ideology; we recognize that in parliamentary systems, to be educated for freedom;
changes have to be made through changes in the law – and WW worked within the unsupportive of the women; was he
parliamentary system of his time (though it was hardly democratic then!) really passionate about social reform
or was he a figurehead?
After all the thoughts had been aired, and some debate had taken place in the group, with people
responding with different perspectives and interpretations to the presentations, I asked each group to
consider what citizenship issues which were relevant in the contemporary world they thought had
emerged from doing this activity.
WHAT CITIZENSHIP ISSUES EMERGED FROM THE ACTIVITY?
The different groups felt that work about these people, in this context, encouraged them to consider all
the following (and by inference could encourage pupils if they, as teachers developed this thinking):
Poverty traps and how to move beyond them – this idea arose from a discussion about the class
position of our various activists. We noted that certain individuals had power and privilege and
education, and could use this. Others born into different circumstances, had more limited possibilities
to be agents of change and might in fact find themselves dependant on others (eg Mary Prince). In this
context, we reflected on the fact that we had all heard of William Wilberforce, and how history
privileges the privileged!
Human rights – this was probably the most obvious citizenship issue to emerge. Having noted this, we
moved onto other significant topics.
Race, gender and class inequalities – one group in particular was very taken by the issues raised by
the two women in the group – Elizabeth Heyrick and Mary Prince. They noted that being female
affected their experience, and accounted for specific barriers to action. One group felt they would want
to make sure their pupils learned about Heyrick and Prince, in order to bring home how far some
people continued to struggle against race, gender and class inequalities.
Solidarity and networking as a strategy – this was felt to be an important concept which emerged from
considering the biographies, and one which several participants wanted to underline with their pupils.
They made the point that ‘big name’ history tended not just to ignore the role of ordinary people, but
did not really give children with quite an ordinary background, any sense of agency and
The importance of education, literacy and oracy – all the groups noted that education was a key to the
kinds of impact the individuals could make, and that the written word, articulacy and confidence to
speak in public made a difference in campaigning. They felt that this was an important issue they
would want their pupils to consider. One group made links with the agenda of the United Nations
Development agencies to transform societies through educating women.
ECM* – teachers in two groups mentioned that this history brought aspects of ECM into the global
and national agenda. They felt that they could use ECM concepts to make comparisons between
contemporary situations and the historical ones.
Racism – like human rights, this is perhaps an obvious concept which any work about abolition and
emancipation addresses, but several participants felt they could profitably move from the historical to
the contemporary through a similar activity with pupils. There was also the view that this work would
address a potential racist bias in how history is presented, as if black people were either victims or the
recipients of white charity and magnanimity. The groups agreed that there was a careful course to be
steered, since it would be possible to teach about Mary Prince, for example, emphasising victimhood,
and not her feisty resilience and resistance. To do this would mean reading more of her biography, and
selecting passages which indicated her strong character.
Trade and economic exploitation – some in the groups felt they would bring to their pupils’ attention
the economic arguments brought by Equiano and the strategy of boycotts used by Heyrick’s women’s
groups. Equiano’s argument, that slavery benefited white plantation owners economically and was not
just based on regarding blacks as less than human, was developed in considerably more detail by Eric
Williams in the early C20th. Williams also analysed how industrialisation in Britain grew on the back
of slavery and meant that a great many more people than the plantation owners were implicated and
benefited from the system. This perspective is now accepted as a major factor in explaining the slave
trade and slavery and why it persisted. It also moves people’s thinking beyond the more emotional
aspects of slavery into analyses which have contemporary resonance. Participants in the workshops
felt that there were analagous arguments about current global economic issues. They would want to
consider some north-south issues which might seem far removed from children in Britain, in the light
of how they benefit at one remove.
The importance of recognizing ‘back room’ workers. Several people felt that Clarkson’s contribution
was an opportunity to consider that there may be charismatic people on the front lines, but that no
campaign gets off the ground without the dedicated work of people in the offices, collecting and
analysing information, stuffing and addresing envelopes, or in the contemporary world, sending and
replying to the emails.
The importance of parliament and democratic institutions in making change. Although several people
were actually shocked to read about Wilberforce – having been fed a diet of hagiography, they wanted
to recognize his role in pushing bills through parliament. In a democracy, major changes are made
through changes in the law and people are needed to carry through these laws. We may, they thought,
have overestimated Wilberforce’s responsibility for abolition, but we didn’t need to throw him out
with the bath water!
A rounded view of human nature and motivation – the biographies did not attempt to hide some of the
less saintly aspects of individual’s lives and participants felt this was helpful. Children need to learn to
consider imperfection and how far they would still rate someone’s contribution, even if they weren’t
perfect. Florence Nightingale for example, was austere and dominating. Should we simply ignore
these characteristics when children learn about her?
The importance of values and where they came from – several individuals in the list were motivated by
strong commitment to Christianity and in fact, it is likely that part of Equiano’s impact at the time was
related to drawing on familiar biblical discourse. Certainly, Sam Sharpe used the language of the Bible
to highlight the injustice and discrimination suffered by enslaved blacks. In our more secular age (at
least as far as Christianity goes) this Nineteenth Century perspective may seem less relevant.
However, to consider values and motivations in past campaigns but may help children relate to two
different aspects of citizenship education. First, to the strong religious motivation of contemporary
communities who have a strong religious motivation for their actions and attitudes; secondly to
explore what their own values are, if they don’t rest in religion.
Personal characteristics as aspects of people who make waves – tenacity,openness, standing up for
what you believe in, patience, opening up the debate, becoming involved for ethical reasons, not
because you personally stand to gain, being prepared to go out on the hustings and work hard
Understanding about the nature of change – many different people contribute; society is
heterogeneous and there is room for a variety of contributions which we should recognize; radical vs
more gradual approaches should be considered – different people favour different strategies
At this point, I asked the different groups if they had any comment about my method of putting pro
and con for each individual. People were quick to note that this encouraged them to consider more
than one perspective on a person, and to avoid black and white thinking – this is of course an
important aspect of citizenship education.
Lastly, I asked what we were going to do about the memorial:
The answer came from the groups themselves, as I had hoped, that we wouldn’t want to memorialise
one person alone after all. Rather, we would want to think how to give all the different protagonists
their due, not turn this into something competitive, in which only ‘one man on his horse’ would stand
on a plinth in the middle of a square. We agreed that considering the form of the memorial would be
exciting and challenging work for a class – but not part of this session.
TAKING THIS ACTIVITY BACK INTO SCHOOL
Our final thoughts were about our ideas for working with primary aged pupils as opposed to an adult
group, cross curricularity and making this more than a ‘one-off’ in the classroom.
1. Adapting the materials All agreed that the bibliographies I had given them were unsuitable for
children and would have to be rewritten according to the age group. The material needed to be
interesting, interactive and dynamic. There were some Key Stage 1 teachers in the group, and even
they felt they could adapt the materials and the method probably for Year 2. All felt that visuals were
essential – and when I pointed out that I knew of no pictures of Elizabeth Heyrick, they thought this
would not be an obstacle. Their children would try and imagine what she looked like!
2. What choices? Teachers wanted to do a bit of research themselves, when I told them that I had
already made a selection from a longer list. They thought their own pupils could do research with a bit
of help, and probably develop the biographies to present to the class.
3. Presenting the protagonists. Different participants came up with a range of suggestions – role
plays and drama, hot seating, ‘interviewing’ the candidates, ‘speech and thought bubble work and art
and design. There were clear opportunities for persuasive writing and oracy, whether within literacy
time, citizenship or history.
4. Examining existing memorials . Once the idea had been opened up of what kind of memorial or
exhibition might be developed, a group thought the class might examine existing memorials (including
the recent one to women who fought in the two World Wars, which is in Whitehall, London SW1).
Then they would design and make their own
5. In context and out of context. The idea of considering criteria for remembering people and
honouring them took an interesting turn when someone suggested that the activity had made him
reflect more deeply about context. So children might consider criteria out of context, and then in
context and see how far their views of people’s actions and motivations changed.
6. Cross curricularity – children could create ICT presentations – powerpoint with pictures and video
of themselves doing dramatic interpretations. I also told the group about a new programme which
works out who should be chosen, using the criteria that the group themselves came up with, which are
‘weighted’ according to people’s own preferences. A description of this is in Appendix 2 at the end of
7. Understanding how presentation itself makes a difference. Children could be encouraged to
reflect on how the material t hey were offered affected their responses. Were they influence in a
positive or negative way by some material – which seemed drier, or more dynamic?
WORKING WITHIN MATHS ON CHOOSING CRITERIA AND SIGNIFICANT PEOPLE
Finally, I was able to introduce ideas to two groups about working with decision making techniques in
considering values, criteria and choices. We did not have time to try the activity in practice. It is
included here in Appendix 2, in the hope that some classroom teachers will be interested in an
approach to critical thinking which draws on mathematical thinking and be willing to try it out with
their pupils (probably at the top end of KS2 or in KS3).
*ECM – ‘EVERY CHILD MATTERS’ see http://www.everychildmatters.gov.uk/aims/
The Children Act 2004 (UK) provides the legal underpinning for ‘Every Child Matters: Change for
Children’ - the programme aimed at transforming children's services. A series of documents have been
published which provide guidance under the act, to support local authorities and their partners in
implementing new statutory duties. The five precepts of ECM are:
Enjoy and achieve
Make a positive contribution
Achieve economic well-being
APPENDIX 1: THE BIOGRAPHIES FOR THE SIX INDIVIDUALS WE CONSIDERED IN THE
The Society for the Abolition of the Slave Trade set up in 1783 was an exclusively male organization.
Although women were excluded from the leadership of the Society, records show that about ten per
cent of financial support came from women. In some areas, such as Manchester, women made up
over a quarter of all subscribers. Some leaders of the Society, such as William Wilberforce, were
totally opposed to women being involved in the campaign. One of Wilberforce's concerns was that
women wanted to go further than the abolition of the slave trade. Early women activists such as Anne
Knight and Elizabeth Heyrick were in favour of the immediate abolition of slavery, whereas
Wilberforce believed that the movement should concentrate on bringing an end to the slave trade.
Some years after the passing of the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act in 1807, new organisations were
formed to campaign against slavery itself. The most important was the Anti-Slavery Society founded
in 1823. Although women were allowed to be members they were virtually excluded from its
leadership. From 1827 women started to organize their own anti slavery groups. By 1831 there were
seventy-three of these women's organisations campaigning against slavery. Amongst their strategies
were delivering little bags to householders with information about the suffering of slaves and asking
women to boycott slave grown products like sugar. They publicized the hardships suffered by female
slaves and appealed to women to think about the lives of other women.
Wilberforce's fear that women would advocate a more radical strategy proved to be correct. In 1824
Elizabeth Heyrick published her pamphlet Immediate not Gradual Abolition. Here, Heyrick argued
passionately in favour of the immediate emancipation of the slaves in the British colonies, in contrast
to the official policy of the Anti-Slavery Society that believed in gradual abolition. The leadership of
the organisation attempted to suppress information about this pamphlet and William Wilberforce
instructed leaders of the movement not to speak at women's anti-slavery societies. However, the
Female Society for Birmingham had established a network of women's anti-slavery groups and
Heyrick's pamphlet was distributed and discussed at meetings all over the country. In 1827 the
Sheffield Female Society became the first anti-slavery society in Britain to call for the immediate
emancipation of slaves. Other women's groups quickly followed but attempts to persuade the
leadership of the Anti-Slavery Society initially failed.
In 1830, the Female Society for Birmingham submitted a resolution to the National Conference of the
Anti-Slavery Society calling for an immediate end to slavery in the British colonies, threatening to
withdraw its funding of the organization if this was not agreed. It was one of the largest local society
donors to central funds, and also had great influence over the network of ‘ladies associations’ which
supplied over a fifth of all donations. At the 1830 conference, the Anti-Slavery Society agreed to drop
the words "gradual abolition" from its title. It also agreed to support Sarah Wedgwood's plan for a new
campaign to bring about immediate abolition. The following year the Anti-Slavery Society presented a
petition to Parliament calling for the "immediate freeing of newborn children of slaves".
The women's anti-slavery societies were disbanded after the Abolition of Slavery Act was passed in
1833. However, several of the women that had obtained experience in these societies now turned
their attention to other issues including factory reform, the end of the Corn Laws and the campaign for
Olaudah Equiano was captured as a child on the West coast of Africa and taken to the Caribbean.
After spending many years as a slave he was given his freedom and became a sailor. He made many
voyages, and finally returned to London. In 1773 he became involved in the political and legal efforts
to outlaw slavery and the slave trade when a former slave and a friend of his, John Annis, was
kidnapped by his former owner who wished to have him sent to the Caribbean. In 1772 this practice
had been declared illegal by Lord Mansfield. Equiano went to Granville Sharp, the first prominent
British abolitionist, for help and between them they tried to save Annis, but unfortunately their attempt
was unsuccessful. However, Equiano was now in contact with the most important British campaigner
At the same time, Equiano was converted to Christianity. He wrote that on a voyage to Spain he saw
'the bright beams of heavenly light' and was 'born again'. To many secular twentieth-century readers
this has seemed unimportant but to many readers in the eighteenth century - and, of course, to
Equiano himself - this really was the key moment of his life.
In the mid 1770s Equiano was a missionary with a plantation project in Central America, which used
slaves. There was as yet no organised anti-slavery movement and very few people thought that
slavery should, or even could be abolished outright. However, a growing number of people – called
ameliorationists - argued that slaves should not be treated cruelly. Equiano was an ameliorationist at
this point, and not yet an abolitionist.
While in Nicaragua, a slave-owner had tried to re-enslave him. He was strung up for several hours
and only managed to escape in a canoe. He returned to London and started writing an autobiography
- The Interesting Narrative – The Life of Olaudah Equiano. It was published in 1789, at the height of
the popular campaign to abolish the slave trade.
Equiano makes a straightforward point - that the slave trade should be abolished - and backs this up
with economic and religious evidence. He decribes his own capture as a boy of 10, the horrors of the
Middle Passage and the cruel treatment of slaves in the Caribbean and Central America.
As well as the overt anti-slavery agenda, he achieved a more subtle anti-racist goal. In C18th
England, a racist myth was current that Africans were either not fully human or were of a less
developed branch of humanity. Equiano helped to dispel this myth by showing the world that he, an
African, was quite capable of writing a fine book. The autobiography also described an impressive
life, regardless of the racial origins of the person who had lived it.
He now undertook lecture tours around England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland, organized by local
abolition committees in which he vigorously promoted the book and the anti slavery campaign.
Equiano spent much of the 1790s campaigning against slavery and became a very well known figure.
He died in March 1797, ten years before the slave trade was abolished on British ships, forty years
before slavery was abolished in British colonies, and 68 years before slavery was ended in the United
States. Although Equiano did not live to see these events, his narrative played an important part in
bringing them about.
Sam Sharpe was born in Jamaica in 1801. He was probably raised in Montego Bay on the
north coast of the island and named after his owner (Samuel Sharp, Esq), who it is said,
treated him relatively kindly. He became a Baptist preacher and followed the developments
of the abolition movement in England by reading local and foreign papers. He had many
followers and supporters and was well known for his inspirational words. It is said that those
who heard him speak, never forgot his message or his voice and that he amazed people with
the power and freedom with which he spoke. As a preacher he travelled far and wide
throughout the parish of St James, decrying the injustices of slavery and making the point
(which he had learnt from the Bible) that the whites had no more right to hold black people in
slavery, than black people had to make white people slaves. Sharpe organised the 1831-32
rebellion- the so called Baptist Rebellion on Jamaica - when he was 31 years old. His idea
was to organise a general strike against slavery in the western parishes, suggesting that the
slaves didn't go back to work after their three day Christmas holiday. Sharpe encouraged a
peaceful resistance however, and that they should only fight physically for their freedom if the
planters did not grant the demands of the general strike.
Sharpe was knowledgeable and intelligent and probably knew it was unlikely that the strike
would succeed, so he had made military preparations for the rebellion. This uprising, which
began on 28 December 1831, starting in St. James and spreading throughout the entire
island, is generally regarded as the greatest (and the last) act against slavery in Jamaica
before it was abolished in August 1833. The Rebellion lasted for eight days and resulted in
the death of around 186 Africans and 14 white planters or overseers.
The white vengeance for this rebellion was terrible. There were over 750 convictions of rebel
slaves, of which 138 were sentenced to death. Some were hanged, their heads cut off and
placed in conspicuous parts of their plantations. Most of those who escaped the death
sentence were brutally punished and in some cases the punishment was so harsh that they
Sam Sharpe was also captured and executed in Market Square, Montego Bay on 23 May
1832. As he awaited his execution he is recorded to have said 'I would rather die upon
yonder gallows than live in slavery'. Slave resistance was costing the British government
dearly and only one week after the death of Sam Sharpe, Parliament appointed a committee
to consider ways of ending slavery. Slavery was ended partially on 1 August 1834 and
completely (with the ending of apprenticeship), four years later. In 1975, following
independence, Sam Sharpe was made a National Hero and in his honour the square was
renamed Sam Sharpe Square.
Mary Prince, the daughter of slaves, was born at Brackish Pond, Bermuda, in about 1788. From the
time of her birth till she was in her late teens Mary was the property of a variety of owners. She had
been separated from her mother and sister and sold on when she was 12. At different periods, she
was the personal slave to her owners’ child, worked as a domestic slave, in the fields, and on salt
pans. Mainly, like other slaves she was very cruelly treated. Mary Prince was sold on several times.
In Antigua, she began attending meetings held at the Moravian Church. She later wrote: "The
Moravian ladies (Mrs. Richter, Mrs. Olufsen, and Mrs. Sauter) taught me to read in the class; and I
got on very fast. In this class there were all sorts of people, old and young, grey headed folks and
children; but most of them were free people. After we had done spelling, we tried to read in the Bible.
After the reading was over, the missionary gave out a hymn for us to sing."
Her owner John Wood and his wife took her as their servant to London. Soon after arriving in England
in 1828 she ran away and went to live at the Moravian Mission House in Hatton Gardens. A few
weeks later she went to work for Thomas Pringle, a member of the Anti-Slavery Society. In 1831
Pringle arranged for her to publish her book, The History of Mary Prince, A West Indian Slave. This
autobiography vivid told the deeply upsetting details of Mary’s life as a slave. It was used as evidence
in the emancipation campaign and helped to convince people in Britain that though the trade had
been abolished, slavery itself was an iniquitous practice which must end.
An extract from Mary Prince’s autobiography
Our mother, weeping as she went, called me away with the children Hannah and Dinah, and we took
the road that led to Hamble Town, which we reached about four o'clock in the afternoon. We followed
my mother to the market-place, where she placed us in a row against a large house, with our backs to
the wall and our arms folded across our breasts. I, as the eldest, stood first, Hannah next to me, then
Dinah; and our mother stood beside, crying over us. My heart throbbed with grief and terror so
violently, that I pressed my hands quite tightly across my breast, but I could not keep it still, and it
continued to leap as though it would burst out of my body. But who cared for that? Did one of the
many bystanders, who were looking at us so carelessly, think of the pain that wrung the hearts of the
Negro woman and her young ones? No, no! They were not all bad, I dare say, but slavery hardens
white people's hearts towards the blacks; and many of them were not slow to make their remarks upon
us aloud, without regard to our grief - though their light words fell like cayenne on the fresh wounds of
our hearts. Oh those white people have small hearts who can only feel for themselves. At length the
vendue master, who was to offer us for sale like sheep or cattle, arrived, and asked my mother which
was the eldest. She said nothing, but pointed to me. He took me by the hand, and led me out into the
middle of the street, and, turning me slowly round, exposed me to the view of those who attended the
vendue. I was soon surrounded by strange men, who examined and handled me in the same manner
that a butcher would a calf or a lamb he was about to purchase, and who talked about my shape and
size in like words - as if I could no more understand their meaning than the dumb beasts. I was then
put up to sale. The bidding commenced at a few pounds, and gradually rose to fifty-seven, when I was
knocked down to the highest bidder; and the people who stood by said that I had fetched a great sum
for so young a slave.
Thomas Clarkson was born in Wisbech in 1760. He was educated at St. John's College,
Cambridge, and was ordained as a deacon.
In 1785 Cambridge University held an essay competition with the title: "Is it right to make men slaves
against their wills?" Clarkson had not considered the matter before but after carrying out considerable
research on the subject submitted his essay. Clarkson won first prize and was asked to read his
essay to the University Senate. That year he had a spiritual experience which he later described as "a
direct revelation from God ordering me to devote my life to abolishing the trade."
Clarkson contacted Granville Sharp, who had already started a campaign to end the slave-trade. In
1787 Clarkson and Sharp formed the Society for the Abolition of the Slave Trade. Influential figures
such as John Wesley and Josiah Wedgwood gave their support to the campaign. Later they
persuaded William Wilberforce, the MP for Hull, to be their spokesman in the House of Commons.
Thomas Clarkson was made responsible for collecting information to support the campaign for the
abolition of the slave trade. This included interviewing 20,000 sailors and obtaining equipment used
on the slave-ships such as iron handcuffs, leg-shackles, thumb screws, instruments for forcing open
slave's jaws and branding irons. In 1787 he published his pamphlet, A Summary View of the Slave
Trade and of the Probable Consequences of Its Abolition.
After the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act was passed by Parliament in 1807, Clarkson published his
book History of the Abolition of the African Slave Trade. Clarkson was not satisfied with the Act
ending the slave trade and joined with Thomas Buxton and others to form the Society for the
Mitigation and Gradual Abolition of Slavery. This was strongly opposed by a more radical group
inspired by Elizabeth Heyrick, who wanted not gradual but immediate emancipation.
Parliament passed the Slavery Abolition Act that gave all slaves in the British Empire their freedom in
1833. The so called Emancipation Act awarded massive compensation to slave owners, but nothing
to slaves, who had to remain ‘apprenticed’ on their masters’ plantations for another 5 years.
Wilberforce was born in Hull in 1759, the son of a wealthy merchant. He decided on a career in
politics and soon after leaving university became a candidate in the forthcoming parliamentary
election in Hull. At university, one of his friends had been William Pitt, who aged 24, became Britain's
youngest ever Prime Minister. In the House of Commons Wilberforce supported the Tory government
led by William Pitt.
In 1784 Wilberforce was converted to Evangelical Christianity. He joined the Clapham Set, a group of
evangelical members of the Anglican Church. Now he became interested in social reform and was
eventually approached by Lady Middleton, to use his power as an MP to bring an end to the slave
trade. (Evangelicals believe you should actively go out and convert people and carry the word of
The Society of Friends in Britain (Quakers) had been campaigning against the slave trade for many
years. They had presented a petition to Parliament in 1783 and in 1787 had helped form the Society
for the Abolition of the Slave Trade. Wilberforce was sympathetic to Mrs. Middleton's request but not
a member of the SAST. He wrote: "I feel the great importance of the subject and I think myself
unequal to the task allotted to me." Despite these doubts, Wilberforce agreed to Mrs. Middleton's
request, but soon afterwards, he became very ill. In 1789, he made his first speech against the slave
Along with Thomas Clarkson and Granville Sharp (both in S.A.S.T, and involved for years in the
abolition campaign), Wilberforce was now seen as one of the leaders of the anti-slave trade
movement. Most of Wilberforce's Tory colleagues in the House of Commons were opposed to any
restrictions on the slave trade.
He presented a bill to Parliament which was defeated. In 1805 he tried again, and the House of
Commons passed a bill to that made it unlawful for any British subject to transport slaves. This was
blocked by the House of Lords.
In February 1806, Lord Grenville formed a Whig administration. Grenville and his Foreign Secretary,
Charles Fox, were strong opponents of the slave trade. Fox and Wilberforce led the campaign in the
House of Commons, while Grenville, had the task of persuading the House of Lords to accept the
Grenville made a passionate speech where he argued that the trade was "contrary to the principles of
justice, humanity and sound policy" and criticised fellow members for "not having abolished the trade
long ago". The Abolition of the Slave Trade bill was passed in the House of Lords by 41 votes to 20
and carried in the House of Commons by 114 to 15. It became law on 25th March, 1807.
Some people involved in the anti-slave trade campaign such as Thomas Buxton, argued that the only
way to end the suffering of the slaves was to make slavery illegal. Wilberforce disagreed, believing
that at this time slaves were not ready to be granted their freedom. He pointed out in a pamphlet that
he wrote in 1807 that: "It would be wrong to emancipate (the slaves). To grant freedom to them
immediately, would be to insure not only their masters' ruin, but their own. They must (first) be trained
and educated for freedom." However, at the end of his life he did join the emancipation movement.
APPENDIX 2: USING DECISION MAKING TECHNIQUES TO CHOOSE BETWEEN
OPTIONS BY RATING THEM ON WEIGHTED CRITERIA
– a version using maths and an opportunity to use a computer programme -
Finally in this activity, we will learn about a method for children to become more focused and precise
in discussing their values, opinions and choices. This method uses the key principles of a technique
called decision analysis and is relevant in a wide variety of situations in which we need to make
choices and decisions. It helps us all move beyond ‘well that’s my opinion and I just think that’ to
discussing just why we favour one option over another one. This is particularly useful in citizenship
education because it can help reduce various sorts of bias in the face of quite emotive issues!
This approach can now be adopted using a simple piece of software called Annalisa.
To see the result of using Annalisa for the Slavery Commemoration question
Go to http://www.cafeannalisa.org.uk
Click on BLOG in the header bar and you will be taken to a variety of examples that use
Click on ‘Slavery Commemoration’ to see snapshots resulting from the example referred to in
the text when Annalisa is used.
If you would like to be able to change this example or develop one of your own this is how you do it.
While still on this screen click on ‘alt file here’ and then ‘Save’ to a folder on your computer
Go to http://www.annalisa.org.uk (there is a link on the Home page of the cafeannalisa site
you are currently in)
Click on DEMO in the header bar and then on ‘click here to download the demo version now’.
Save the file to a folder on your computer, double click to open it and follow the simple
instructions provided by the Annalisa installation wizard.
Once Annalisa is installed you can click on the Slavery Commemoration file you downloaded earlier
and it will now be possible for you to change any of its contents (names, ratings, weightings) and see
the effect on the scores.
The demo version is restricted to 4 options and 4 attributes and there is no Save facility. The
unrestricted version, which allows 10 of each and has various Save facilities, is obtainable at low cost
on the Annalisa site where the demo was obtained.
NOW HERE IS AN EXPLANATION OF WHAT IS ACTUALLY HAPPENING IN THE ANNALISA
PROGRAMME SO THAT YOU CAN DO THE SAME THING IN A MATHS SESSION, IF YOU WANT
1. Decide on your criteria
After your class has worked with the biographies, decide together on the main criteria you want to use
to make your choice. You will need to shorthand these.
For the annalisa example on cafeannalisa I chose the following 4 criteria which had emerged from the
workshops with teachers:
personal experience - shorthand for someone who actually experienced slavery
strategic – shorthand for someone who carefully thought through their approach to challenging
influential – this refers to how far the person actually influenced what happened in the campaigns
tenacious – this referred to personal characteristics which the teachers wanted to mark
2. Weight the criteria out of 100
Decide how important the criteria are in your view, out of 100. The total of all the weightings must
add to 100. Here are two possible examples (they are represented in the two snapshots on the
Criteria Weighting 1 Weighting 2
Personal experience 10 50
Strategic 20 10
Influential 40 25
Tenacious 30 15
Total 100 100
3. Rate each ‘candidate’ on the criteria you have chosen
Your rating for each candidate is out of 100, but this time you don’t have to worry about everything
adding up to 100.
A possible set of ratings (the ones used in the cafeannalisa example)
Olaudah Equiano Elizabeth Heyrick Mary Prince Sam Sharpe
Personal exp. 90 0 100 100
Strategic 50 95 50 60
Influential 70 90 45 45
Tenacious 70 95 50 50
4. Now the maths!
For each candidate for commemoration, you multiply your rating for each criterion by the weight you
have given that criterion, and put 100 as the denominator. This is really no harder (and probably
easier) than lots of maths KS2 children do.
For our four candidates we will have 4 multiplication sums. Then we add the 4 results for each person,
going down the column with their name at the top, to get their total ‘score’.
Remember though, if you use the computer programme, all this is done for you. Also if you change
either the rating or the weighting for any criterion or person, the computer automatically and instantly
adjusts the score for you.
SO – using the first weighting above
Criteria Equiano Eliz. Heyrick Mary Prince Sam Sharpe
Personal 90x10 0x10 100x10 100x10
experience 100 100 100 100
Strategic 50x20 95x20 50x20 60x20
(weighted 100 100 100 100
Influential 70x40 90x40 45x40 45x40
(weighted 100 100 100 100
Tenacious 70x30 95x30 50x30 50x30
(weighted 100 100 100 100
Working out the scores
Criteria Equiano Eliz. Heyrick Mary Prince Sam Sharpe
Personal 9 0 10 10
Strategic 10 19 10 12
Influential 28 36 18 18
Tenacious 21 28.5 15 15
TOTALS 68 83.5 53 55
So, if you weight influence and tenacity very highly, as here, Elizabeth Heyrick comes out with the
highest score. However, if you had weighted personal experience much higher, she would have been
overtaken by Equiano. On the second example on cafeannalisa you can see that this happens.
Below is what the ‘demo’ on slavery looks like on www.cafeannalisa.org.uk . The orange lines show
the result of your weighting and rating – in this case Elizabeth Heyrick comes out top.
The bicentenary of the end of the slave trade is being commemorated in 2007 (emancipation came later, in 1838). Who should we
commemorate and why? Snapshots from an Annalisa on this question show that Elizabeth Heyrick might emerge top - or bottom
if personal experience was given a high rather than low weight. alt file here