Yoked Marchers Mark Abolitionist Anniversary

March of abolitionists i i

hide captionA member of the March of the Abolitionists joins the "Walk of Witness" through Central London to mark the Bicentenary of the Act for the Abolition of the Slave Trade, March 24, 2007.

Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images
March of abolitionists

A member of the March of the Abolitionists joins the "Walk of Witness" through Central London to mark the Bicentenary of the Act for the Abolition of the Slave Trade, March 24, 2007.

Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images

Two hundred years ago today, the British House of Commons passed the Slave Trade Abolition Act of 1807, which prohibited the trading of Africans into slavery in the Caribbean. It took Britain an additional 26 years to completely end the slave trade throughout its existing colonies, but 1807 was a watershed in ending the trans-Atlantic trade.

To commemorate the anniversary, a group of yoked, chained activists marched 250 miles from the home of abolitionist hero William Wilberforce in Hull, England, to London.

The small band of marchers, calling themselves the Lifeline Expedition, each day put on the yokes and chains that were worn by slaves, and set off along the streets of England toward the capital.

When the marchers arrived in London on Saturday, they joined a group of several thousand people beside the Houses of Parliament, to listen to a choir sing Amazing Grace, the hymn written by John Newton, a former slave trader-turned-preacher.

The crowd then marched toward Kennington Park, site of anti-slavery rallies more than 200 years ago. They were addressed by the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu.

Born in Uganda, Sentamu is the first black Bishop in the Church of England. He's been credited with adding a little African flair to the venerable but creaking old church, many of whose leaders had condoned the slave trade.

"We belong to one family, the human race," Sentamu said. "Members were captured, shackled, sold and sold again. We are saying sorry — not out of fear — but out of love for our brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ."

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