David Walker Biography


(Critical Guide to Censorship and Literature)

Because he was born to an enslaved African man and a free African woman in North Carolina, Walker’s free status was determined by the law that stated that the status of the mother determined the status of the child. In 1815 he relocated to Boston, where he became heavily involved in the radical abolitionist movement. Fourteen years later he published, at his own expense, a pamphlet, Appeal to the Colored People of the World, which urged slaves to armed revolt. It was widely distributed and had great influence on African American social and political thought in the North and the South. More and more African American leaders were to echo Walker’s words as they, too, called for resistance, violent if necessary, to slavery. Henry Highland Garnet acknowledged Walker’s influence on his own political philosophy when he included Walker’s text in his own militant manifesto, Address to the Slaves of the United States of America, in 1848.

Among white Americans, reception of Walker’s Appeal was much less cordial than that of African Americans. Northern white abolitionists, committed to a philosophy of moral suasion rather than physical resistance, were appalled by Walker’s violent rhetoric. For example, Benjamin Lundy, a leading white Quaker abolitionist, denounced it in the April, 1830, issue of his newspaper, The Genius of Universal Emancipation: “I can do no less than set the broadest seal of condemnation on it.”...

(The entire section is 486 words.)