Film about British abolitionist William Wilberforce to premiere at namesake school

"Amazing Grace," which chronicles the work of William Wilberforce, will be shown at Wilberforce University on Friday, a week ahead of its release in U.S. theaters, the university said.

Wilberforce led a 20-year campaign in the British parliament which resulted in the abolition of the slave trade in the British empire in 1807.

Founded in 1856 by the African Methodist Episcopal church for educating the children of slaves, the school is the oldest private, historically black university in the U.S.

Because of its history, the university was invited to partner with the movie's producers, school spokeswoman Robin Thomas said.

"We believe it's important for people to understand the legacy of Wilberforce and his impact on the U.S.," she said. "His work inspired the abolitionist movements here, yet he is little-known in the States."

British director Michael Apted's film also depicts the relationship of Wilberforce, played by Ioan Gruffudd, with his mentor John Newton (Albert Finney), a British slave trader turned evangelical minister who wrote the lyrics to the hymn "Amazing Grace."

The film also stars Michael Gambon, Rufus Sewell, Romola Garai, Ciaran Hinds and the Grammy-winning Senegalese singer Youssou N'Dour in his film debut.

The university's choir is featured on the film's soundtrack and will perform Friday night before the movie.

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