On the 1st December 1834 the Emancipation of the Slaves within the British Empire was announced from the Town House steps on Green Market Square. It actually took another four years for the Slaves in the Cape Colony to be free because the colonial government of the day wanted to give the protesting slave owners time to adapt. Slaves therefore worked as apprentices for their former owners without pay for four more years. Many therefore regard 1st December 1838 as the real Emancipation Day. This reminds us that freedom was something hard struggled for. We think of William Wilberforce who struggled against slavery for 50 years of his 74 year life. The following speech he made some 42 years before the 1833 Slavery Abolition Act:
Let us not despair; it is a blessed cause, and success, ere long, will crown our exertions. Already we have gained one victory; we have obtained, for these poor creatures, the recognition of their human nature, which, for a while was most shamefully denied. This is the first fruits of our efforts; let us persevere and our triumph will be complete. Never, never will we desist till we have wiped away this scandal from the Christian name, released ourselves from the load of guilt, under which we at present labour, and extinguished every trace of this bloody traffic, of which our posterity, looking back to the history of these enlightened times, will scarce believe that it has been suffered to exist so long a disgrace and dishonour to this country. — House of Commons, 18 April 1791
Sadly Wilberforce’s words are painfully relevant for the 1st December 2009 in South Africa as we continue to live through “so long a disgrace and dishonour” of HIV / Aids. Many still long for freedom! Alan.