Sons of Africa

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Sons of Africa was a late 18th-century British group that campaigned to end slavery. Its members were educated Africans in London, freed slaves who included Ottobah Cugoano, Olaudah Equiano and other leading members [1] of London's black community. It was closely connected to the Society for the Abolition of the Slave Trade, a non-denominational group founded in 1787, whose members included Thomas Clarkson.


In England in the late 18th century, groups organized to end the slave trade and ultimately abolish slavery. The Quakers had been active. A new group was the Sons of Africa, made up of Africans who had been freed from slavery and were living in London, such as Ottobah Cugoano and Olaudah Equiano. Many had been educated and used their literacy to petition parliament on these issues, as well as writing to newspapers and speaking at lectures. They were allied with the newly founded Society for the Abolition of the Slave Trade of 1787, including both Quakers and Anglicans, including Thomas Clarkson. The Sons of Africa referred to him as "our constant and generous friend".[2]

Equiano had learned about the 1783 insurance claim trial related to the Zong massacre and contacted abolitionist Granville Sharp, who helped bring the case to public attention. The group held public meetings to lecture about slavery. They wrote letters, for example to the MP Sir William Dolben. They often sent letters opposing slavery and detailing conditions of the Middle Passage to newspapers, to help provoke debate. Shortly after his correspondence with them and a visit to see a slave ship being fitted out, Dolben proposed a Parliamentary bill to improve the conditions on slave ships. The Slave Act 1788 was the first law passed to regulate the slave trade, establishing standards of how many slaves could be carried in relation to ship size.[2]

Olaudah Equiano also led delegations of the Sons to Parliament to persuade MPs to abolish the international slave trade in the British colonies. This was achieved under the Slave Trade Act 1807, which applied to all colonies except India, where slavery was part of the indigenous culture. The legislation included provisions for Britain to use naval force to enforce the law, and it began to intercept illegal slave ships off the coast of Africa.[3] The Sons of Africa continued to work for abolition of slavery in the British colonies.


  1. ^ Gretchen Gerzina, Black England: Life Before Emancipation, London: Allison and Busby, 1999, p. 172.
  2. ^ a b Gerzina (1999), Black England, p. 173.
  3. ^ Hakim Adi & Marika Sherwood, Pan African History: Political Figures from Africa and the Diaspora Since 1787, Routledge, 2003.