The official launch of Amazing Grace 250 was attended by all AG250 partners, the Deputy Lord Lieutenant of Buckinghamshire, the High Sheriff of Buckinghamshire, the Mayors of Milton Keynes and Olney and MK civic, community and cultural leaders.
Guest speaker was James Walvin, Professor Emeritus in History at the University of York.
‘John Newton has haunted my work for decades. I first wrote about him in my book Black Ivory in 1992 – and more substantially in ‘The Trader, the Owner, The Slave: Parallel Lives in the Age of Slavery’ in 2007. But my interest at the time was focussed solely on his work as a slave trader. Like many others however, I was curious about how a famous cleric could have emerged from so brutal a world as the Atlantic slave trade.
My interest in Amazing Grace was sharpened by that electrifying moment in 2015 when President Obama sang it at a funeral in Charleston. A simple question occurred: how did a hymn travel from Olney to the White House? And that’s what I’m trying to explain in my current writing.’