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Film seeks to restore Wilberforce's name among Americans

By Jennifer Riley
Christian Post Reporter
Wed, Mar. 19 2008 06:05 PM ET

An award-winning documentary on the life of the Christian British lawmaker famous for his role in helping end the British Empire's slave trade is currently airing on public television across the US.

"The Better Hour: The Legacy of William Wilberforce" is a one-hour documentary produced to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the 1807-1808 abolition of the British and American slave trade.

"Every school boy knows the name of William Wilberforce," former president Abraham Lincoln had said a quarter-century after Wilberforce's death.

But today "few Americans understand why, or even know Wilberforce's name", noted Cullen Schippe, executive producer of "The Better Hour", in a statement.

"The Better Hour" seeks to reestablish Wilberforce in American history and put him alongside American abolitionists such as Frederick Douglass, who once said, "Let no man forget the name of William Wilberforce."

"We would like to restore William Wilberforce to his rightful place in history," Sheila Weber, vice president of communications at "The Better Hour", told Focus on the Family's CitizenLink. "It has been a largely lost story. This documentary is going to be available for use in social studies and history classes."

Wilberforce was a British parliamentarian who led the fight for the abolition of the slave trade, which legally ended in 1807 in England and 1808 in the United States. 2007 marked the 200th anniversary of the end of the trans-Atlantic slave trade.

"The Better Hour" highlights Wilberforce's determination and love for humanity and shows how he and his colleagues worked tirelessly to end the slave trade, even though it assumed a large portion of the British economy.

"We want to inspire and mobilise people, today, to follow in his footsteps because it's a remarkable story of faith," Weber commented. "Wilberforce had a dramatic conversion. It was because he was compelled by his newfound Christian faith that he undertook such an arduous task to end the evil of human trafficking.

"He spent many hours every morning in private prayer and Bible reading and devotions with his family," Weber added. "This is, in large part, what gave him the strength to persevere."

Although best known as a Christian abolitionist, Wilberforce was also a prolific philanthropist, establishing 69 philanthropies during his lifetime.

He also spearheaded efforts to set up education for indigent children, child labour laws, prison reform, the first society for the prevention of cruelty to animals, Bible societies, and mandatory small pox inoculation.

"Our world needs a new generation of people like Wilberforce," wrote Rick Warren, best-selling author of The Purpose Driven Life, in the foreword to "Creating The Better Hour: Lessons from William Wilberforce", a related study guide for small groups.

"I hope Wilberforce's example will compel people to work together with others to defeat the evil giants that loom over the twenty-first century," Warren added.

"The Better Hour" builds on the popularity of last year's movie Amazing Grace which is also about William Wilberforce. The film took in nearly 15 million worldwide.

"Wilberforce puts a new face on what it means to be a Christian that we can be true to the tenets of the faith and yet show forth compassion to the world," Weber of "The Better Hour" said.

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