Human Rights KS2 – 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 was a very serious young man. He worked hard, and was planning 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 because was so hard-working, he started doing some research. He went off to talk to some of the people who sailed on the slave ships. What they told him shocked him so much that he couldn’t forget about it. He won the writing competition, then spent the rest of his life collecting evidence to show 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 a huge amount of facts and figures 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. Once when he was in Liverpool Thomas was attacked and nearly killed by a gang of hired assassins, but he didn’t give up.

Thomas collected objects as well as information – like leg-shackles, manacles, branding irons and instruments to hold slaves jaws open so their teeth could be inspected. He travelled round the country making speeches, and showed these to the public, and even published anti-slavery booklets with illustrations of torture instruments. This made a huge impact. People all over the country set up anti-slavery societies. 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 were against slavery, it was the government who made the laws. This is where William Wilberforce came in.

He had been 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 a great time partying. Then he decided to become a Member of Parliament because his friend, William Pitt, became Prime Minister. He still kept on partying, but he gradually got to know God and feel close to him. One day, Wilberforce had such a deep spiritual experience of Jesus that he became an evangelical Christian.

William wondered what God wanted him to do. Should he stop being an MP and do something more useful? He got to know other evangelical Christians, including Thomas Clarkson. They persuaded William to carry on as an MP and speak out in Parliament against slavery. He started making speeches, suggesting new laws banning slavery, and getting MP’s to vote. In his speeches he used all the information that Thomas Clarkson had gathered, and even took some of the chains and manacles in to show the other MP’s in London.

It took a long time – more than 20 years – but finally, the slave trade was 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 campaigning until he became so unwell he had to retire. One day, over 40 years after the campaign had started, William was lying very ill in bed. A messenger hurried to his house. They brought the news up to William – 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 or given any pay. 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. The sheet of paper with an oval shape on it is for them to use to draw their logo on.

Background information for teachers


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