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Two Filmmakers Work to Make William Wilberforce a Household Name

Featured at Yale "Voices and Votes" Conference Monday, February 12, 2007

Contact: Sheila Weber, 646-322-6853, Sheila@wilberforcecentral.org

NEW YORK, Feb. 8 /Christian Newswire/ -- Two Filmmakers – Bristol Bay Productions and TWC Films – have been working collaboratively to make William Wilberforce a household name again as he was 200 years ago. They will tell this story at The Yale Center for Faith and Culture Conference, "Voices & Votes: Religious Convictions in the Public Square" on Monday, February 12, 2007. (http://www.yale.edu/divinity click "Voices and Votes.")

Bristol Bay Productions' major motion picture Amazing Grace, starring Iaon Gruffud as Wilberforce and Albert Finney as John Newton is being released on February 23, 2007. The TWC Films documentary, THE BETTER HOUR: The Legacy of William Wilberforce, is targeted for fall 2007 television broadcast in the U.S. and U.K., and will focus on the character of British Parliamentarian William Wilberforce -- who worked heroically for 20 years for the abolition of the Trans Atlantic slave trade, with its 200th anniversary this year.

The Better Hour documentary, funded by the John Templeton Foundation, will provide a more in-depth resource for the growing interest among church and anti-slavery groups.

William Wilberforce was well known, even in America, in the early 1800s, after having led the 20 year effort, against all economic odds, that ended the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade, effective May, 1807 in England and January, 1808 in the United States. (British Royal Assent was given on March 25, 1807; U.S. legislation was signed by Thomas Jefferson on March 2, 1807.)

Interest in Wilberforce is rapidly growing in England. Last November, Prime Minister Tony Blair issued a statement of regret for the British slave trade. In a New Year's Day broadcast on BBC, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, commended Wilberforce and his colleagues for fighting for justice and human rights.

The British Parliamentarian, William Wilberforce, was directly responsible not only for the legislation abolishing the British Slave Trade 200 years ago, but heavily influenced the same legislation in the U.S. In addition, Wilberforce was responsible for the beginning of the modern human rights movement, the women's suffrage movement, the first child labor laws, prison reform, a more human penal code, and the founding of 69 philanthropic societies in late 18th century England.

"William Wilberforce's political career is a case study that merits attention," said Chuck Stetson, chairman of The Wilberforce Project. "While Wilberforce's name is virtually unknown in the modern United States, with approximately a 3 percent recognition factor in the U.S. and 10 percent in the U.K., Wilberforce was once acknowledged by Abraham Lincoln in 1858 as a person that 'every school boy' knew," explained Stetson. The emancipation leader Frederick Douglass saluted the energy of Wilberforce "that finally thawed the British heart into sympathy for the slave, and moved the strong arm of government in mercy to put an end to this bondage. Let no American, especially no colored American, withhold generous recognition of this stupendous achievement—a triumph of right over wrong, of good over evil, and a victory for the whole human race." In 1833 when Wilberforce died, the Free Blacks in America were urged by their leaders to wear black arm bands for 30 days as a sign of mourning, said Stetson. In 1856, the first historically black university in America in Dayton, Ohio was named Wilberforce University.

The "Voices and Votes" Conference will include panels of prominent faith leaders: Richard Cizik, Richard Land, Ralph Reed, Ron Sider, Miroslav Volf, among others. For registration and directions to the conference, go to www.yale.edu/divinity.org and click "Voices and Votes" or contact Evan Baehr at evan.baehr@yale.edu.

The Wilberforce Project will also feature THE BETTER HOUR: The Legacy of William Wilberforce at the National Religious Broadcasters' Convention in Orlando, February 18-20, Booth # 345.

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