Human Rights KS1 – stop 2: St John’s College

At each stop on the walk there will be a story and an activity. Worksheets for children to use during the walk need to be downloaded and printed off at school and brought with you.

Stop 1 | Stop 2 |Stop 3 | Stop 4 |Stop 5 | Stop 6


Story Two:
Thomas Clarkson
(1760–1846) and William Wilberforce (1759–1833)

These two men were students at St John’s College a few years before Anna Maria Vassa was born. The type of necktie worn will be shown to the children.

Thomas Clarkson.

Thomas Clarkson worked hard when he was a student here, and he wanted to become a priest. He spent a lot of time praying to God in this chapel. But just before he left university, he decided to enter a writing competition, and this changed everything. He had to write about whether it was right for people to be made slaves. Thomas didn’t know anything about slavery, but he went to talk to some of the people who had been sailors on the slave ships. What they told him was so shocking that he couldn’t forget about it. He won the writing competition, then he spent the rest of his life showing people how terrible slavery was. He got on his horse and in seven years he rode 35,000 miles and spoke to 20,000 sailors. He wrote down facts and numbers as evidence in his notebooks. Lots of people weren’t happy about what he was doing because they knew that if slavery stopped they would lose money, and some even tried to kill him. But Thomas didn’t give up. He collected objects as well as information – like leg-shackles, manacles and chains.

He travelled round the country talking to people and showing them the chains. He even wrote booklets about how cruel slavery was. People all over the country started to say that slavery was wrong. They were so angry that they stopped buying sugar that had been grown by slaves. This might have been the first time people thought about fair trade!

William Wilberforce

Even though lots of people didn’t like slavery, it was the government who made the laws. This is where William Wilberforce came in.

He was a student here at St John’s, but he wasn’t as hard-working as Thomas Clarkson. William’s family were very rich, and he wouldn’t ever need to get a job, so he had lots of fun. Then he decided to become a Member of Parliament and help run the country, because his friend, William Pitt, became Prime Minister. But gradually he got to know God and started to feel so close to Him that it changed his life. William wondered what God wanted him to do. Should he stop being a Member of Parliament and do something more useful? Then he got to know Thomas Clarkson. Thomas persuaded William to carry on as an MP, speak out in the Houses of Parliament against slavery, and help make laws to stop slavery. William even took some of Thomas’ chains and manacles to London to show the other MP’s.

After 20 years of campaigning, the slave trade was stopped, or abolished. This meant that people couldn’t be bought and sold as slaves any more. But it didn’t help the people who were already slaves. William kept on speaking out against slavery for another 20 years, until he was too old and ill. But one day, a messenger hurried to William’s house. He brought the news that Parliament had finally abolished slavery. William died three days later, knowing he had succeeded.


Activity Two: Design an Anti-slavery logo

When people like Thomas Clarkson and William Wilberforce were campaigning against slavery they realised that people needed to see things as well as just hear about them. They showed the chains and torture instruments, and used drawings of them in their pamphlets and posters.

There are still slaves in the world today. People are captured and made to do jobs they don’t want to do, and not allowed any freedom. Even in our country, some people are forced to work in the fields picking fruit and vegetables for us to eat. They live in bad conditions and earn very little money.

The children will be asked to draw a symbol or a logo for an anti-slavery movement to use to get people to take notice of how badly the slaves are being treated, and help stop slavery.

Activity Sheet two
Draw a symbol or a logo for an anti-slavery movement to use to get people to take notice of how badly the slaves are being treated, and help stop slavery.

Background information for teachers


Stop 1 | Stop 2 |Stop 3 | Stop 4 |Stop 5 | Stop 6