David Walker and His Appeal, a Transformative Book

Walker's Appeal in Four ArticlesOn September 28, 1829, North Carolina native David Walker published his Appeal.

A free-born African American raised in the Wilmington area, Walker traveled south to Charleston, which had a large free black population, before settling in Boston by 1825. A businessman, Walker also founded the Massachusetts General Colored Association, which actively opposed the colonization of free blacks to Africa. He spoke out publicly against slavery and racism. The Appeal carried those efforts into print.

The Appeal argued for the black community to take action against slavery and discrimination. Walker argued the key was to transform one’s self through individual moral improvement by education, temperance, religion, regular work habits and self-regulation. Through action, Walker contended, blacks could refute racism and claim the rights of citizenship. Walker did not advocate overthrowing the government, but rather sought to transform society.

The reaction of North Carolina’s white leaders to the Appeal was typical of that seen in other Southern states. Unsuccessful in their attempts at restricting the rights of free blacks prior to Walker’s Appeal, legislators quickly passed a series of limiting acts – including the ban of similar materials from entering the state – once the book was presented to the assembly.

Walker died in 1830 and is buried in an unmarked grave in Boston.

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