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William Wilberforce
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Television Documentary, 'The Better Hour,' Partners with 'Amazing Grace' Film

CBN.comNew York, NY.  The John Templeton Foundation recently awarded a major grant to a new documentary film, "The Better Hour," which aims to make William Wilberforce a household name as he was 200 years ago.

The TWC Films documentary, "The Better Hour: William Wilberforce, A Man of Character Who Changed The World" 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.

Produced by NRB board member Phil Cooke of TWC Films, "The Better Hour" documentary is co-sponsored by the Wilberforce Project. It will provide an in-depth resource on the character of this Christian leader for church and anti-slavery groups, anticipated to increase upon the February 23, 2007 release of Bristol Bay Productions' major motion picture "Amazing Grace," starring Iaon Gruffud as Wilberforce and Albert Finney as John Newton.

A companion study guide will be available for home group study next fall, along with "The Better Hour" DVD. The John Templeton Foundation grant also funds a national essay contest for youth, to launch in September 2007, with awards made in the spring of 2008.

William Wilberforce was well-known in early 1800s America, after having led a 20-year effort, against all economic odds, that ended the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade in May, 1807 in England and January, 1808 in the United States.

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.

Wilberforce was directly responsible not only for the legislation abolishing the British Slave Trade and heavily influenced similar legislation in the U.S. In addition, he 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 humane 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 his 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 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."

When Wilberforce died in 1833, 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, America's first historically black university was named Wilberforce University.

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