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England 2007 - The March of the Abolitionists

Please visit the new website for The March of the Abolitionists at:

A National Project for the Bicentenary of the Abolition of the Slave Trade

The 200th anniversary of the abolition of the Slave Trade in the British Empire in 2007 is a significant event, providing a unique opportunity to reflect and learn from the past and to work together towards a better future. There is a single word in the West African Akan language called "SANKOFA" which means "we must learn from the past to build for the future." Walking together is one of the best ways for people to learn.

The March of the Abolitionists is a journey of reconciliation in two parts in the spring and summer of 2007. Participants will be able to learn about the places and people associated with the history of slavery and abolition and will also be able to contribute to abolishing slavery in our own time. Anti-Slavery International estimates that there are 27 million children, women and men trapped in slavery today.

In the Sankofa Reconciliation Walk there will be a particular focus on learning about the contribution of Africans themselves to the abolition of the slave trade and also the unique contribution of women. 

The March of the Abolitionists: Part 1 - March 1-25

This walk from Hull to Westminster will be exactly 200 miles long - a mile for each year since the act was passed. With regard to the abolition of the slave trade in England, it is a curious fact that several key events occurred within a few miles of the Greenwich meridian line. William Wilberforce came from Hull and Thomas Clarkson from Wisbech, both places close to the meridian line. Thomas Clarkson wrote the essay on the slave trade, which changed his life in Cambridge and also committed his life to abolition at Wadesmill in Hertfordshire. Wilberforce made a similar commitment by the oak in Keston Kent and of course the bill was passed in Westminster. The Anti Slavery Society, which Clarkson started, is located in Stockwell. All of these places are close to the line.

In 2000 a footpath was devised called the Meridian Way, which was used for the Jubilee 2000 Lifeline Walk. The initial intention was that this footpath should be used to raise funds for Africa. The walk in 2007 will provide an ideal opportunity to launch what can become an annual long distance walking fund raising event for African projects.

Parliament voted to abolish the slave trade on February 24th and the Act became law at noon on March 25th. The end of the walk will coincide with the official statement of apology, which will be made by the Archbishop of Canterbury at Lambeth Palace on March 24th. The March of the Abolitionists will provide a special opportunity for Anglicans to support the apology.

The March of the Abolitionists: Part 2 - June 3 - July 11

Subtitled 'The Sankofa Reconciliation Walk' this journey will be an opportunity for many people not only to commemorate the anniversary itself, but also to raise awareness about slavery today and to raise funds for projects seeking to put an end to child trafficking in Africa. The main elements of the walk will be as follows:

* A commemorative walk from London to Bristol to Liverpool and back to London. This would be a triangular walk, mirroring the triangular trade, between the three major former slave ports in England. Manchester and Birmingham would be passed on the return from Liverpool. In this way the main cities with populations of Africans and Africans of the Diaspora would be visited.

* A core team of Africans, Africans of the Diaspora and Europeans walking throughout - a major feature will be a group of the Europeans walking in replica yokes and chains as a symbolic sign of apology for the slave trade.

* Producing an education pack on the slave trade, slavery today and reconciliation issues.

*Inviting schools to participate in a continuous fund raising relay from school to school, joining the core team as it passes by for days or half days of sponsored walking.

* Using canals towpaths where possible as these were built partly from the profits of the trade. This would also be a safe route for schoolchildren and other participants.

* Commemorating the achievements of those who helped to bring about the abolition of the slave trade by a special individual focus when we reach a place connected with that individual (e.g. remembering Olaudah Equiano in Greenwich and Josiah Wedgwood at Barlaston near Stoke-on-Trent and inviting descendants to join us at the same time.)

*Raising funds for various projects in West Africa, the Caribbean and an inner-city project in England, but with a special focus on projects seeking to deal with the issue of child trafficking.

* Having "Freedom Feasts" in the major cities when the expedition passes through  - multicultural celebrations of reconciliation and commemoration of Africans and Europeans who contributed to the abolition of the slave trade.

The total distance is about 470 miles. The most appropriate time will be in June and July to allow for schools participation in the second half of term.

The Slave Coffle

A dramatic feature of the walk will be the slave coffle itself. ‘Coffle' is the word used for people walking as a group in yokes and chains. This symbolic action has been taking place under the name of the Lifeline Expedition in recent years. The expedition is a series of reconciliation journeys, which constitute a response to the legacy of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade. The first Lifeline Expedition journey was the Jubilee 2000 Lifeline Walk along the Greenwich meridian in England. Other expeditions have taken place in France (2002), Spain and Portugal (2003), the USA (2004), the Caribbean (2005) and West Africa (2006). A frequent reaction of Africans of the Diaspora was "At last! Now we feel that white people are taking our story seriously. Thank-you - but so much more needs to be done."

White people walking in an attitude of humility in the slave coffle may still be controversial but would surely be more appropriate than any sort of triumphalist commemoration. It would certainly be in keeping with the attitude of William Wilberforce who once said            
"I mean to take the shame upon myself, in common indeed with the whole Parliament of Great Britain, for having suffered this horrid trade to be carried under their authority. We are all guilty - we ought all to plead guilty."

Resources Required

•    Networking and establishing partnerships. The March of the Abolitionists is currently supported by Anti-Slavery International, CARE, the Equiano Society, Hull City Council, Lewisham Borough Council, the International Reconciliation Coalition, the Northumbria Comminity, Peaceworks and Youth With A Mission. It is also associated with the set all free initiative of Churches Together in England and the Stop the Traffik coalition.
•    Fund raising for the walk. Funds to enable the walk to take place are vital in the immediate future to enable significant sums of money to be raised in 2007.
•    Appointing someone with administrative and project management skills to plan the walks.

Walk Schedules

Part 1 Hull – Westminster





Thurs March 1

Hull - Barton-upon-Humber

Phil Ball - 01482 329580

Fri March 2

Barton-upon-Humber - Scunthorpe

Tim Harris

Sat March 3

Scunthorpe - Epworth

Rev David Leese  01427 872319

Sun March 4

Rest day in Epworth

           "                    "

Mon March 5

Epworth - Gainsborough

Mike Childs 01427 610057   

Tues March 6

Gainsborough - Saxilby (nr Lincoln)

 Hamish Temple 01522 546412

Wed March 7

Saxilby - Branston (nr Lincoln)

          "                  "

Thurs March 8

Branston - Billinghay


Fri March 9

Billinghay – Boston


Sat March 10

Boston – Holbeach

Rev Alan Barker 01406 423270

Sun March 11

Rest day in Holbeach


Mon March 12

Holbeach – Wisbech

Clive Butcher 01945 587863

Tues March 13

Wisbech – Wimblington

David Sladden
Tel :01354 694097

Wed March 14

Wimblington – Sutton

David Sladden
Tel :01354 694097

Thurs March 15

Sutton – Soham


Fri March 16

Soham – Cambridge

Katie Reid 01223 207387

Sat March 17

Cambridge – Royston

       "             "

Sun March 18

Rest day in Royston

 Priscilla Barlow 01763 852841

Mon March 19

Royston - Buntingford


Tues March 20

Buntingford – Ware


Wed March 21

Ware – Waltham Abbey


Thurs March 22

Waltham Abbey – Walthamstow


Fri March 23

Walthamstow - Greenwich

Sam Eastop
0208 9218006

Sat March 24

Greenwich – Westminster

Walk of Witness

Sun March 25

Anniversary day events






Part 2: Sankofa Reconciliation Walk 





Sun June 3

Commissioning service


Mon June 4

Deptford - Hayes


Tues June 5

Hayes – Reading

 Malc Pearce 0118967 6331

Wed June 6

Reading – Newbury


Thurs June 7

Newbury – Marlborough


Fri June 8

Marlborough – Chippenham


Sat June 9

Chippenham – Bath

John Rackley 01225 461600

Sun June 10

Rest day in Bath


Mon June 11

Bath – Bristol

Marvin Rees  07810 874 033

Tues June 12

Journey to Plymouth


Wed June 13

Return from Plymouth to Bristol via Exeter


Thurs June 14

Bristol – Stroud

Rev Canon Adrian Slade
01242 253162  

Fri June 15

Stroud – Cheltenham

Rev Canon Adrian Slade
01242 253162 

Sat June 16

Cheltenham – Worcester

David Ryan 01905 616109

Sun June 17

Worcester - Birmingham

Colin Marsh 0121 766 5522

Mon June 18

Rest Day in Birmingham

     "                    "

Tues June 19

Birmingham – Cannock


Wed June 20

Cannock – Stoke–on-Trent

Lloyd Cooke 01782 207200

Thurs June 21

Stoke-on-Trent  -Nantwich


Fri June 22

Nantwich – Runcorn


Sat June 23

Runcorn – Liverpool

John Patterson 0151 228 3364

Sun June 24

Rest day in Liverpool


Mon June 25

Journey to Lancaster


Tues June 26

Journey to Whitehaven


Wed June 27

Journey to Glasgow

Tom Moyes 01786 823 588

Thurs June 28

Return from Glasgow to Liverpool

John Patterson, 0151 228 3364

Fri June 29

Liverpool – Warrington


Sat June 30

Warrington – Manchester

Graham Kent 0161 273 5508

Sun July 1

Rest day in Manchester


Mon July 2

Manchester – Buxton


Tues July 3

Buxton – Ashbourne


Wed July 4

Ashbourne – Derby

Rob Hobbs  01332 291987

Thurs July 5

Derby – Leicester

Paul Walland  0116 2124131

Fri July 6

Leicester – Kettering

David Wiseman 01604 887046

Sat July 7

Kettering - Olney


Sun July 8

Rest day in Olney


Mon July 9

Olney – Luton


Tues July 10

Luton – Mill Hill

George Jones 0208 959 2288


Wed July 11

Mill Hill - Deptford





We acknowledge helpful support from Ordnance Survey in our route planning.

Contact details:
David Pott, Lifeline Expedition, 58 Geoffrey Rd, LONDON SE4 1NT
Tel: 020 86942220

For more information about Christian involvement in the Bicentenary please visit


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