Whilst 1833 Abolition of Slavery Act as the end of slavery in the British Empire. Oftentimes it is heralded as evidence of Britain's liberal if not benign form of imperialism. However, the law was initially only applied in the West Indies. While 1833 act is certainly a landmark in the history of slavery, historians point out that it only signaled Britain's intention to gradually end slavery in the colonies. In fact, Britain continued to profit from slave labour in the colonies for several more decades. Slavery was only abolished in the Gold Coast on September 19, 1874.It was not abolished in southern Nigeria until 1916. In 1906 in the Gambia, an ordinance was approved that anyone born after that date could not be enslaved, but remaining slaves were to be freed only on the death of their masters.
In 1901, Sierra Leone passed an ordinance which ended the dealing in slaves, but individuals could still bring slaves into the country for their own use. The same ordinance did allow slaves to buy their freedom, at a sum to be fixed by the governor of not more than four pounds for an adult and two pounds for a child. When the governor there, wanted to abolish slavery in 1921, Winston Churchill, then secretary of state for the colonies, replied that "the abolition of slavery could not, however, have any immediate beneficial effect on the finances of the colony" of Sierra Leone.
By the early 1920s Britain was under increasing pressure from the League of Nations temporary slavery commission. In 1924 Britain was forced to admit that slavery was still practised in Sierra Leone, northern Nigeria, Gambia, Aden, Burma and Hong Kong.
Britain in 1926 signed the League of Nations slavery convention. But it was quickly in trouble with the League, following a ruling by Sierra Leone's Supreme Court on July 1 1927, which declared that the status of slavery "is clearly recognised" and thus "the use of reasonable force [by the slave's owner] in retaking of a runaway slave must also be recognised". Court president Mr Justice Sawrey-Cookson added: "It must be as absurd to deny an owner of a slave his rights to retake a runaway slave as to deny a husband certain rights which follow on a lawfully contracted marriage."
Slavery was finally abolished in Sierra Leone on January 1 1928, nearly a century after the Abolition of Slavery Act. In marking the end of slavery, this is the date which should be used.