This series covers the story of the fight in Britain to outlaw the slave trade, and eventually slavery itself. Beginning in 1750 with slave ship captain John Newton, it follows a typical voyage to Africa and then on to Jamaica with his human cargo. It is personal in that it traces the development of Newton's growing awareness that there was something very wrong in the entire business to the epiphany that turns him from slave captain to anti-slavery champion. From there it moves to the initial social and legal situations which led to the political fight in Parliament, a fight which dragged on for years. Finally, it covers the missionary efforts in the islands which gave slaves a sense of their rights as men before God, and which gave the home populations an accurate understanding of what slavery in the islands really was about. That led to the growing demand by the population for legal change. Unlike the recent film, "Amazing Grace" which focuses on William Wilberforce, this series looks at the history of the trade from many viewpoints: from that of Newton, the slave ship captain, to planters in the West Indies like David Lisle, to social reformers like Granville Sharp and Thomas Clarkson, to political figures like Wilberforce, Fox and Pitt, to missionaries such as Rev. William Knibb, to articulate, former slaves such as Olaudah Equiano, and finally, to ordinary slaves. It displays their fate by first portraying raids on slave villages, following them through the middle passage and then to the difficult "seasoning" on the plantations. Although it embellishes the victories somewhat and condenses incidents in the manner typical of most "faction" (as opposed to fiction) nevertheless, it is a sometimes painful but honest assessment of the system and fairly covers a difficult, complex topic in a balanced way. It depicts the role of Christian faith as a catalyst, driving those who spearheaded the abolition movement and then continuing as an integral part of that movement over the decades. That may be why it is a little remembered, seldom-seen mini-series which is unavailable today, since it is more honest than politically correct. Produced by the BBC in 1975, it rates 9.4 of 10 on IMDB and was nominated for a Bafta award. It has first rate acting and a credible, fact-based screenplay by Jamaican Evan Jones, a man who has both slaves and slave-owners as ancestors and so is uniquely qualified to present a balanced view. Jones also narrates it.
Part 1 deals with Newton's experiences as a captain and the initial legal battles over slaves physically present in England.
Part 2 deals with the incident which raised awareness enough to bring the matter of the trade before Parliament, and the struggles there.
Part 3 covers the growing missionary presence and the hostility of the planters toward such activity, the slave revolts of the early 19th century and the changing economic/political climate.