How does Thoreau express his ideas about slavery in Walden?

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Thoreau speaks explicitly, though briefly, to the enslavement of African Americans in Walden's longest chapter, "Economy." Thoreau was an abolitionist, but Walden is a work more concerned with a philosophy of living for all of humanity. Thoreau's focus in Walden was that "what a man thinks of himself, that it is which determines, or rather indicates, his fate."

Thoreau acknowledges in Walden that "it is hard to have a Southern overseer; it is worse to have a Northern one; but worst of all when you are the slave-driver of yourself." Implicit in this statement is the idea that all men, including slaves, must re-conceptualize themselves as independent and free beings in their minds, no matter their physical circumstances. Thoreau believed that men must not only have beliefs, they must act on their beliefs. This idea was more explicitly stated in Thoreau's 1854 speech "Slavery in Massachusetts" when he said, "The law will never make men free; it is men who have got to make the law free." Thoreau comes out against any institutionalized oppression that suppresses mankind's natural divinity, whether it is public opinion, dependence on others, or our own willingness to surrender our personal liberty for material gain or security.

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Thoreau was vehemently anti-slavery, yet when he speaks of it in Walden  he can sound almost flippant. Nothing,...

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