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The Impact of David Walker’s Appeal in The Slave Community

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    The Impact of David Walker’s Appeal in The Slave Community.

                David walker was a black author who was born on 28th of September 1785 and died on 28th June 1830.  His mother was a free woman born in Wilmington while his father was a slave who never lived to see the birth of his child.  Walker is famous for the pamphlet he published in 1829 known as Walker’s Appeal.  Though himself was free by the virtue of her mother being free he felt everything to do with slavery repugnant.  He claimed that is was uncomfortable to live in the South because if he continued to stay there it meant that he would not live long.  He recalls how he would hear insults hurled at slaves and could not stomach the sound of chains coming from enslaved black Americans.  His masterpiece Walker’s Appeal greatly impacted both on the lives of the slaves and the white plantation owners.

                This research paper will basically focus on the impacts of walker’s Appeal in the slave community of the United States.  It starts off with brief background information about David Walker and how he was affected by the institution of slavery.  The paper ends with a conclusion which is a summary of the key points that have been discussed.  The last page of this research paper is a list of all the books, websites and other materials that have been consulted properly formatted in line with Chicago formatting style.

                Walker was widely travelled and free to engage himself in various business activities unlike his colleagues who were suffering in the hands of white men for example in 1827 he was in Boston where he had set up a business of selling second hand clothes.  The profit he made in this business used it to help slaves who escaped from their masters and other needy persons in Boston something that made him a very popular in the entire Boston region for his generosity and selflessness. [1] While in Boston he involved himself with other activities apart from selling clothes for example he was an agent of freedom’s journal, an abolitionist newspaper based in New York.  His sole responsibility was to distribute it to the wider regions.  He also acquainted himself with other black writers who were the mouthpiece of the enslaved African Americans and also worked hand in hand with activists for Black’s rights who were against racism and slavery.  Here he would get an opportunity to write articles in an African American newspaper known as freedom’s journal where he would directly attack slavery.  He also became part of the Massachusetts General Coloured Association (MGCA) in 1828[2].

                In the following year he wrote and published his piece of work that made him very popular The Walker’s Appeal in four articles that were reprinted severally in 1829 and 1930.  In his writings, he emotionally but logically reasoned out how blacks were mistreated by their masters.  He urged blacks to say no to slavery asking them to down their tools and rise against them irrespective of the risk that would be involved.  He came to this conclusion after observing how the enslaved Negro was treated wherever he went. “The result of my observations has warranted the full and unshaken conviction, that we, (coloured people of these United States) are the most degraded, wretched and abject set of beings that ever lived since the world began: and I pray God that none like us ever may live again until time shall be no more (23)”[3]

                To understand where Walker was coming from it is important that his socio-political environment be known and it is for this purpose that this research paper gave his historical background information.  His work came at a time when pressure from other black writers to end slavery was on the rise and especially in the North where vigorous activists had taken a religious dimension on the issue.  Their move was backed by other whites from the North who thought that all races were supposed to live in harmony.  Walker believed that the blacks were the power that was needed to bring change; to change their traditions and prospects arguing that if they were able to transform their lives then America at large would change[4].

                Walker’s Appeal was a wake up call to bring the blacks back to their conscience if not to incite them.  He would tell them that it would better to be killed than to be turned into a slave by tyrants who would kill their mothers, babies and take their wives.  Through his writings he urged the white community to repent and denounce their actions for the judgement day was at hand.[5]  He claimed that there was untapped primitive force in blacks which will one day be aroused and make him a magnificent fighter.  He urged them not to be misled by the Negro’s servile character for all men were equal in the eyes of the lord.[6]

                Walker attacked colonization movements that were used by the whites as a solution to the slavery issue arguing that America belonged more to blacks that to them because it has been enriched by their tears and blood. His words added weight to the pressure that abolitionists exerted and was followed by 1831’s Nat Turner’s rebellion or what was known as Southampton insurrection.[7]

                The circulation of walker’s Appeal in the Southern states in 1830s summer instilled fear in the minds of the plantation owners and all the rest that were involved in slavery especially in Virginia, Georgia and in North Carolina.  These pamphlets were spread secretly by slave agents.  They were smuggled from New York and Boston on ships and distributed to the slaves.  Excitement started to mount among the whites in New Bern, Fayetteville, Elizabeth city and other big towns in the state especially after they heard of the rumours that slaves had organised various insurrections which were scheduled to occur at Christmas period.  [8]The whites got very worried to an extent that they requested the then governor John Owen to ensure they were protected from slaves because the issue was already getting out of hand.  In response to this the governor wrote and sent an appeal to the nation’s legislature in 30th of November urging it to take into consideration the issue of white’s security and to devise ways of averting the looming consequences of the predicted planned insurrections.

                The legislature responded immediately and it was made illegal to teach African Americans how to write or read.  It was also made a criminal act to distribute what the legislature referred to as seditious publications.  The move was geared to inhibit the spread of inciteful journals and newspapers which were thought to be the one that were enlightening the enslaved blacks and thus Walker’s Appeal was not an exception. [9] The legislature also banned all movements and organisations that were conducted by the blacks whether free or not.  This was because Walker who was free by circumstance was the one who was behind these activities and it brought the question of the status of people like him although nothing was done about it.  To prevent smuggling of such publications in future through ships, a law that allowed any blacks entering any state by ship to be arrested and any dealings between those ships and blacks were prohibited.[10]

                Although there was collective social awakening among the blacks there were very many stumbling blocks that impeded on blacks’ progress. There were many conspiracies and plans to stage a revolution but the ground was not fertile to allow the seed of rebellions to germinate because of high vigilance from the whites.[11] The whites had well organised militias such as the Klu klux Klan which was referred by many black Americans as a terrorist movement. This group would attack, beat and lynch blacks who showed signs of resistance. The other thing that made rebellion almost next to impossible was the fact that whites’ population greatly surpassed that of the black but despite this; slaves inspired by Walker’s Appeal which urged them to stand up and fight for their rights said enough was enough and staged a chain of rebellions in the south although they never materialised. Though not fruitful they introduced a new culture in the south, a culture of resistance. It is through his effort that a ground for other future rebellions was prepared for example the 1831’s Southampton insurrection which was led by Nat Turner[12].

                Again Walker’s appeal gave new life to the MGCA making it a movement with a difference. It was the only movement in the United States that openly attacked the politics of the day unlike other well established movements such as the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church and the African Methodist Episcopal. MGCA was geared towards uniting all blacks irrespective of there locality. The movement was successful in instilling political conscience in the minds of African Americans and prepared a stage for the later movements such as the Negro National Convention Movement. “The movement appeal was part and parcel of this rising new spirit, and it promoted racial solidarity and moral conviction with a fever identical to that in Walker’s speech to the MGCA”[13].

                Though Walker’s move to enlighten the blacks through his journal, Appeal failed to achieve some of its objectives it led to a sharp reaction from the southern whites who in their response enacted legislations that outlawed any move that was designed to enlighten the Negro, to arrest any blacks who tried to enter the state by ship and cancel any deal that was conducted by blacks through the ports. In spite of this, Walker’s vision to unify and empower the Negro was manifested in many different ways each with a unique approach and scope.

                 Walker proved to the whites that African Americans were tired of being exploited by them and that they were ready to stand for their rights no matter the consequences. Walker’s writings inspired future writers such as Garnet who in his Appeal editorial of 1848 expressed the need for the blacks to stage effective rebellions that would put a full stop to the chapter of slavery.[14]

                Having been born and brought up in an environment where slavery was the order of the day, Walker’s conscience was aroused. He was somehow lucky to have been born free by simple reason that his mother was free. He felt bad to see blacks being chained and mistreated and that was why he went to Boston to avoid this sight. He wrote his Journal, Walker’s Appeal which was meant to create awareness to the black population that they were the power that was required to bring the change that would transform their lives and indeed it proved to be. His work enlightened the blacks who responded by staging various rebellions to express their dissatisfaction at how they were treated by the whites.

    Bibliography.

    Bruce, D.D. 2001.The Origins of African American Literature, 1680-1865: A History

                of the African American Literary Presence, 1680-1865. University of Virginia

                Press. Bruce in this book tries to show though African voice of expression was    hard suppressed by the whites; it spoke volume within the wider culture. It shows       how Walker’s Appeal awakened the conscience of blacks in the United States of            America.

    Ford, B., Haziq, Y. and Scott A. The Appeal of David Walker. Accessed at

                 http://www.gwu.edu/~e73afram/bf-yh-as.html  The author tries to show how     Walkers Appeal impacted on the Black community.

    Hinks, P. 1997.To Awaken My Afflicted Brethren. University Park, Pennsylvania: The           Pennsylvania State University Press.

    Benesch, K. and Fabre, G. African Diasporas in the New and Old Worlds:

                Consciousness and Imagination. Rodopi, 2004. Benesch and Fabre discuss the

                contribution of various writers and activists in the fight against slavery in the

                South.

    Stuckey, S. 1994. Going through the Storm: The Influence of African American Art

                In History. Oxford University Press U.S.  In this book, Stuckey shows how the

                writings of African American writers enlightened the Negro to fight for his rights.

    Powell W S. 2008. David Walker, 1785-1830. Available at          http://docsouth.unc.edu/nc/walker/bio.html. This piece of work gives a detailed   account of Walker’s life and his achievements. It shows the role he played in         arousing the conscience of blacks.

    Mayer, H. 1998.All on Fire: William Lloyd Garrison and the Abolition of Slavery. St.          Martin’s Press. The book is very resourceful in information on how the blacks       organized themselves in fighting for their rights.

    Marable, M. and Mullings, L. 2003. Let Nobody Turn Us Around: Voices of

                Resistance, Reform, and Renewal. Rowman & Littlefield. Here David Walker is

                arguing how wrong it was to enslave African Americans from a religious point of

                view.

    Walker, D. and Hinks, P.P. David Walker’s Appeal to the Colored Citizens of the

                World: To the Colored Citizens of the World. Penn State Press, 2000. In this book Walker who was born in North Carolina decries the suffering blacks received in the hands of the whites. He wrote and distributed his piece of work to         the blacks to arouse their feelings but unfortunately some harsh laws were passed             by the southern legislature.

    Walker, D. Appeal to the Colored Citizens of the World. New York: Hill and Wang, 1995. In this piece of work the author shows how Walker distributed his piece of           work to the blacks with an aim of arouse their feelings

    [1] Benesch, K. and Fabre, G. African Diasporas in the New and Old Worlds:

                    Consciousness and Imagination. Rodopi, 2004

    Benesch, K. and Fabre, G. African Diasporas in the New and Old Worlds:

                    Consciousness and Imagination. Rodopi, 2004

    [2] Powell W S. 2008. David Walker, 1785-1830. Available at http://docsouth.unc.edu/nc/walker/bio.html
    [3] Marable, M. and Mullings, L. 2003. Let Nobody Turn Us Around: Voices of Resistance, Reform, and Renewal.               Rowman & Littlefield.

    [4] Ford, B., Haziq, Y. and Scott A. The Appeal of David Walker. Accessed at http://www.gwu.edu/~e73afram/bf-yh- as.html
    [5] Hinks, P. 1997.To Awaken My Afflicted Brethren. University Park, Pennsylvania: The Pennsylvania State             University Press.

    [6] Powell W S. 2008. David Walker, 1785-1830. Available at http://docsouth.unc.edu/nc/walker/bio.html
    [7] Mayer, H. 1998.All on Fire: William Lloyd Garrison and the Abolition of Slavery. St. Martin’s           Press.
    [8] Marable, M. and Mullings, L. 2003. Let Nobody Turn Us Around: Voices of

                    Resistance, Reform, and Renewal. Rowman & Littlefield.

    [9] Walker, D. Appeal to the Colored Citizens of the World. New York: Hill and Wang,                1995.
    [10] Powell W S. 2008. David Walker, 1785-1830. Available at http://docsouth.unc.edu/nc/walker/bio.html
    [11] Mayer, H. 1998.All on Fire: William Lloyd Garrison and the Abolition of Slavery.                St. Martin’s Press.

    [12] Ford, B., Haziq, Y. and Scott A. The Appeal of David Walker. Accessed at

                     http://www.gwu.edu/~e73afram/bf-yh-as.html
    [13] Ford, B., Haziq, Y. and Scott A. The Appeal of David Walker. Accessed at

                     http://www.gwu.edu/~e73afram/bf-yh-as.html
    [14] Stuckey, S. 1994. Going through the Storm: The Influence of African American Art In History. Oxford         University Press US,

     

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