William Wilberforce was born on August 24, 1759, in Hull, Yorkshire, England. He was the only son of Robert Wilberforce (1728-68), a wealthy merchant, and his wife Elizabeth Bird (1730-98). “His grandfather William Wilberforce (1690-1774 or 1776) had made the family fortune in the maritime trade with Baltic countries, and had twice been elected mayor of Hull.”
While a student at Cambridge University, William Wilberforce, the grandson, became lifelong friends with William Pitt the Younger who became Prime Minister. Wilberforce became a politician 1780, first representing Hull and later representing Yorkshire. He later became an evangelical Christian, which changed his lifestyle completely. He was “a deeply religious” social reformer and “was very influential in the abolition of the slave trade and eventually slavery itself in the British empire.”
Wilberforce married Barbara Spooner Wilberforce (m. 1797-1833), and the couple became the parents of four sons: Samuel Wilberforce, Robert Wilberforce, Henry Wilberforce, and William Wilberforce. He retired from politics in 1825 and died on July 29, 1833, in London, United Kingdom, “shortly after the act to free slaves in the British empire passed through the House of Commons. He was buried near his friend Pitt in Westminster Abbey.” The movie “Amazing Grace” depicts Wilberforce’s fight to end slavery in the United Kingdom.
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