David Walker: Appeal to the Coloured Citizens of the World

(1829)

David Walker, a free black man living in Boston, Massachusetts, published the first edition of his Appeal to the Coloured Citizens of the World in 1829, and the third and last revised edition of the pamphlet in June 1830. In this Appeal Walker encouraged his fellow African Americans in the United States, slave and free, to see themselves as human beings and to do something to elevate themselves from their “wretched state.” In doing so, the arguments for slavery, racial slavery in particular, would be torn down, thus weakening the power of the slaveholders.

Because Walker was not beyond advocating the use of violence to help free slaves in America, his pamphlet was banned from several states in the South. Even some abolitionists were appalled by the suggestion that violence would be acceptable in the cause of emancipation. Called “incendiary” and “subversive” in the 1830s, the arguments put forth by Walker continued to provide a foundation upon which later generations of...