Earlier this year we mentioned a fascinating book written by Steve Turner providing the history of the song Amazing Grace, written by a former slave trader named John Newton several hundred years ago. We also printed the "lost" verse of Amazing Grace that was removed from hymnals more long ago and replaced with the stanza that begins "when we’ve been there ten thousand years," a verse Newton did not actually author.
You may already know that since then, Chris Tomlin has recorded a beautiful rendition of the original version of this song in his new CD, See The Morning.
But you may be surprised to learn that a major motion picture is in the works based in part on this story, featuring the story of Newton’s friend, British abolitionist William Wilberforce. Scheduled for release in February, the movie studio has released a trailer for the film which features the the Tomlin version of the song in the intro.
In related news, EMI CMG Records plans to release a CD in January inspired by the film, which includes music from Smokie Norful, Chris Tomlin, Martina McBride, Kierra Kiki Sheard, Jars of Clay, Steven Curtis Chapman, Bethany Dillon, Shawn McDonald, Jeremy Camp, Natalie Grant, Bart Millard, Nicole Nordeman, Avalon, and a duet with the David Crowder*Band and Marty Stuart. Advance clips of the music are online at the Amazing Change website.
Keep reading to view the story synopsis as provided by the studio:
"You may choose to look the other way but you can never again say you did not know." This was William Wilberforce’s conclusion to his three hour debate in the Houses of Parliament before Members of Parliament voted on his Abolition Bill in 1789.
William Wilberforce was born into the age of the Great British Empire, when the country’s influence around the globe was at its most powerful. It was, however, an age when the rumblings of social discontent were emerging and a time when reformers faced an uphill struggle to be heard.
A good friend and staunch colleague of England’s youngest ever Prime Minister, Pitt the Younger, Wilberforce was entrusted with the policy for the Abolition of Slavery. Torn between a life of spirituality and a career in politics, he was inspired to take his desire for the equality of all mankind into the House of Commons. Seeking the advice of John Newton, a former slave trader who turned to the Church in order to atone for his earlier life, Wilberforce became the rallying voice in Parliament for a fragmented group of like-minded people to fight for the cause and make the people of Britain, and ultimately the world, acknowledge the horror of the Slave Trade.
The sugar trade was at the heart of the British economy, and it depended entirely on slave labour. With the majority of MPs representing the sugar and slave trades opposing Wilberforce in the House of Commons, he faced a mammoth task in attempting to persuade them to abolish slavery. His prowess as an orator, coupled with his firm belief that abolition was his vocation, made Wilberforce a formidable opponent. Throughout his turbulent career, he was keenly supported and inspired by his wife Barbara’s love and commitment to the cause.
Amazing Grace follows Wilberforce’s career through his 20’s and 30’s, when he and his fellow humanitarians made the issue of slavery a talking point, not only in political circles, but also throughout the country. They waged the first modern political campaign, using petitions, boycotts, mass meetings and even badges with slogans to take their message to the country at large. Wilberforce steered this cause through the corridors of power and ultimately opened the way for the abolition of slavery throughout the British Empire. His success came after decades of fighting when Parliament finally passed the first anti-slavery bill in 1807.