The campaign for the abolition of slavery is sometimes seen as a largely white
movement. In fact, as groups of white Quakers were petitioning Parliament against
the slave trade in the 1780's a group of black men came together to do the
same thing. They included Olaudah Equiano , Ottobah Cugoano and at
least ten others. Calling themselves the “Sons of Africa”, they carried out
public-speaking and letter-writing campaigns, visited parliament and made public
appeals in print.
The group were not radicals: they wrote with great politeness to Sharp, Pitt
and other members of the white abolition movement, expressing their thanks
for all that the movement had done for “the much-wronged people of Africa” and
told Sharp, on behalf of black people in England, that they “were considered
as slaves, even in England itself, till your aid and exertion set us free”.
But the Sons of Africa also campaigned against slavery on their own account.
Cugoano also wrote personally to the king and the Prince of Wales, and argued
that all slavery should be abolished at once, and Equiano became well-known
for his reviews and letters in reply to racist articles in the newspaper The
Public Advertiser. The very argumentative skill of these writers was a powerful
antidote to the pro-slavery claims that black people were too stupid to be
educated, and only fit to do manual work. After one of Olaudah Equiano's letters
to the Morning Chronicle and London Advertiser, the paper's editor added his
“We cannot but think the letter a good argument in favour of the natural
Abilities, as well as good feelings, of the Negro Race, and a solid answer
in their favour.”