What it does not make clear is that the bill did not abolish slavery itself, which would persist in Jamaica and other British colonies for another 30 years. When younger and more militant abolitionists pressed Wilberforce to enter legislation to that effect, he replied that because of the effect “which long continuance of abject slavery produces on the human mind…I look to the improvement of their minds, and to the diffusion among them of those domestic charities which will render them more fit, than I fear they now are, to bear emancipation.” In other words, the slaves were not ready for their freedom. In the 1960s, the call was for “Freedom Now”, something the Kennedy brothers shrank from just as did William Wilberforce.
This movie is part of the self-congratulation of the English ruling class excusing itself for the most odious and reprehensible crimes in history. This self-congratulation is accomplished with all the charm that money can buy, with cute production values of costume, scenery, English character acting, and camera work. If you want to see how that self-congratulation works, go to the movie and watch the gentry and the politicians, row upon row of them, wearing their powdered, white wigs clapping their fair, uncalloused hands: you'll hear the sound of humanitarian hypocrisy. The name of William Wilberforce became a by-word for liberation in the Caribbean islands thousands of miles away, but at home in industrial Yorkshire his name was a synonym for prudery and political repression. Say his name with a West Indian intonation - William Wilberfarce.
Yeni, Fela's oldest child, is sitting upstairs, somewhere in the warren of rooms above the stage. "My father was a very charismatic person," she says. "For someone like me, it was easy to follow his ideology because, as a black person, he made me proud. Fela's father - my grandfather - was a pastor, but he was still a radical; he was very outspoken. And my great-grandfather was responsible for taking Christianity to Abeokuta [a city north of Lagos]. He used music to get people to believe, so in his way he was a radical as well. And my grandmother was an activist. So we come from a long line of revolutionaries.