David Walker was born in the year 1785 to a free woman and a slave man. Unfortunately his father died prior to his birth. He was an extensive reader of slavery literature with a specific concern on the history of slavery and oppression. He settled in Boston in the year 1825 where he married a girl from an eminent black family with whom they had one daughter. Even though he grew up as a free black man, thanks to the legal status of his mother, his life as a free black man in Massachusetts was characterized by day to day encounters of discriminatory practices, since the state’s laws debarred the them from doing public services, carrying out jury services, serving as police officers and even holding any governmental office.
Walker’s Appeal and its consequences
The first article that was written by David Walker was published in the year 1829. This article was titled ‘Walker’s appeal in Four Articles: Together with a Preamble, to the Colored citizens of the World, but in particular, and Very Expressly, to those of the United States of America’ (Vorenberg, 34). In this article, David Walker expressed his deep concern about the state of the colored people in the United States of America. He was deeply convinced that the colored people in the United States were so miserable and degraded, and that they were the most hopeless people that had ever lived since the start of time. He therefore encouraged all slaves to kill their masters so as to free themselves.
It is believed that Walker received his inspiration from Robert Alexander Young, a mystical and radical black author, who had earlier foreseen the end of oppression and slavery in America. In early 1829, Robert Young had published an article that was encouraging blacks in all countries to unite and fight against the white people. David Walker viewed the Christian churches which belonged to the white Americans as ciphers of their oppression and therefore he decided to direct his wrath to the Northern churches which encouraged segregation (Vorenberg 40-46).
David Walker’s article received different opinions. The South was really angered by the declarations of this article and this made them to formulate laws which threatened to hang anyone who owned a publication of that appeal. Leaders of anti-slavery campaign organizations of all races also rejected the violence that Walker advocated for in this appeal. Nevertheless, he continued to circulate this article at his own peril with his own money, and in spite of the combined effort of both the North and the South to bring to an end the publication of this article, it became one of the most distributed and read books that was ever published by a black person. Many abolitionists considered David Walker a hero as a result of his boldness in publishing such an article.
In this article, David walker asserts that there is no more harm in killing a person who tries to kill you than it is to take a glass of water. The writings of David Walker indicate clearly that he was a man who hated slavery regardless of him being born of a free mother. His boldness can further be seen from the fact that he refused to flee to Canada when his wife and friends advised him to do so. He stated to them categorically that he stood for his words. He was later on murdered in 1830 in the U.S. He insisted that the work of emancipation could only be successful if someone was to die. His article was an inspiration for the slaves who later on organized slave rebellions which included the Nat Turner rebellion a year after his death (Vorenberg 50-55)
It is important to note that even though Walker’s appeal emphasized so much violence, he was not entirely wrong in the sense that he extended an olive branch to the white people by promising them a peaceful environment if they treated them like men. His message to them was simple; to end slavery so that they could all live happily in peace. He pointed out to the whites that they were very unmerciful, unforgiving and very hardhearted people because of the way they treated them.
David walker viewed his article as a religious publication which gave the black people a responsibility from God to stamp out the wickedness of slavery. He therefore encouraged the black people to kill the whites so as to answer to God’s will. He also assured the white slaveholders that even if they continued to treat them badly, God was going to deliver the black people from under them. David Walker’s unselfish commitment to the emancipation of slaves and his world-shattering spirit provided a significant ground for future revolutionaries like Henry Garnet who would later on publish David Walker’s ‘Appeal’ in addition to his own works.
It can be argued that the philosophic actions of David Walker and other abolitionists could have earned more respect had they used more peaceful ways to fight slavery. For instance, Walker advocated for a violent way to end slavery at a time when peaceful ways had been put in place in other countries like Britain. It is even clear that at that time there was a peaceful struggle for liberation that was going on in America. Therefore, he could have nurtured the efforts of the peaceful liberators so as to end the evils of slavery on America.
Even though David Walker is celebrated for his unselfish commitment to the emancipation of slaves and his activist spirit, it is clear that he pursued a short-sighted means to the campaign against slavery in the United States of America and in the European colonies in Africa. At the time of his campaigns, the British government was already pursuing peaceful ways to end slavery and it was even encouraging other countries to follow suit. The result of this declaration was a decline in slave trade and slavery activities within the next ten years.