William Wilberforce was born in 1759 in Hull, East Yorkshire. After he graduated from Cambridge University he wanted to become a politician. At just 21 Wilberforce became Member of Parliament (MP) for Hull, then MP for Yorkshire in 1784. Wilberforce devoted most of his life to campaigning for the abolition (legal end) of the British Slave Trade.
He was a lifelong friend of William Pitt, who later became Prime Minister. With the support of Pitt, Wilberforce became leader of The Society for the Abolition of Slavery. The Society campaigned for almost twenty years to end British involvement in the Transatlantic Slave Trade.
At the time African people were being bought and sold as slaves, then taken to work in Europe and America. The abolition campaign made the Society many enemies, especially among those who had made huge profits from the slave trade. (Take a look at the My Learning resource on the history of the slave trade for more information)
Wilberforce was the first MP to raise the issue of the Slave Trade in the House of Commons. His Abolition of the Slave Trade Bill was finally passed by parliament in 1807, after several attempts. Although the Slave Trade was officially ended, Wilberforce knew that many people were still held in slavery in the British colonies. He carried on his campaign until another bill outlawing slavery in all British colonies was passed in 1833 - just days before he died.