Parents should know that this film includes frank descriptions of some of the most profound atrocities of the slave trade, including torture and rape. The painful symptoms of Wilberforce’s long-term illness are also included. The movie’s portrayal of extraordinary leadership, courage, and persistance is in the context of positions taken by other characters that by today’s standards are obviously inhumane and racist.
Families who see this film should talk about why Wilberforce was among the first to see that slavery must be abolished. What was different about the situation in Britain that permitted this to be accomplished years before slavery was abolished in America, and without a war? How are the arguments and tactics adopted by the opposition similar to those used in other great debates, from civil rights to women’s suffrage?
Families who appreciate this movie will want to learn more about William Wilberforce and William Pitt, the youngest prime minister in British history. Families will also appreciate Amistad and the groundbreaking television miniseries Roots. The essay “When Mr. Beecher Sold Slaves in Plymouth Pulpit” describes the actions of abolitionist minister Henry Ward Beecher (brother of Uncle Tom’s Cabin author Harriet Beecher Stowe) took the dramatic step of staging a slave auction to demonstrate its barbarity. Families will enjoy Bill Moyers’ superb PBS special about the history of the hymn “Amazing Grace.”