Before David Walker’s Appeal to the Colored Citizens of the World during the 1800’s, there had not been any other type of anti-slavery documents published. Although the Appeal is directed to black slaves, its powerful moral message and indictment of white America’s hypocritical society and oppressive, brutal system of slavery is a moral message that resonates to all audiences, including whites. Walker’s Appeal calls for slaves to rebel against their masters as the means of reacquiring their humanity. Walker relies heavily upon religious values of Christianity, communicating strongly with free and enslaved blacks: The man who would not fight under the Lord and Master Jesus Christ, in the glorious and heavenly cause of freedom and of God, to be delivered from the most wretched, abject and servile slavery, that ever a people was afflicted with since the foundation of the world, to the present day, ought to be kept with all his children or family, in slavery, or chains, to be butchered by his cruel enemies. (Walker Article 1) The Appeal sent out fear and terror throughout the white community as some states even passed laws that would sentence blacks, or even whites, to severe punishment if caught with the pamphlet. Finzsch cites to Eaton who points out that “in Georgia, Virginia, North Carolina, Louisiana and South Carolina anyone be it slave, free black or white who was caught with the pamphlet was tried and usually found guilty of inciting insurrection” and it also inspired enslaved blacks to fight for their freedom regardless of the consequences (Finzsch, 5).
Walker’s purpose is a call for unity amongst slaves and to educate them as to their immediate need to fight back against their masters. In order to communicate his ideas, Walker attacks the values and the veracity of the United States history by pointing out the hypocrisy of the institution of slavery in a self-proclaimed nation that pretended to stand for constitutional equality, democracy and freedom. Walker powerfully challenges these notions by raising views that were being brought up mostly as a result of scientific racism and the idea that religion justifies slavery.
Any discussion of abolition was always a radical, dangerous, and illegal conversation during the times of slavery. Slavery was the horrific social, political and economic system that allowed the United States to rapidly accumulate wealth, thus unjustly elevating whites to positions of immense power and privilege. When Walker published his Appeal his document traveled throughout a political terrain that was controlled by whites, and these whites relied upon anti-black racist documents such as the Declaration of Independence, the United States Constitution, and Thomas Jefferson’s Notes on the State of Virginia. All of these documents systematically deemed blacks as un-human, excluding blacks from political protection, and condoned chattel slavery. Walker’s message in his Appeal resonates in the white community of that time because it directly challenges the myths relied upon by those whites in their “mythical” documents.
The historical opening lines of the Declaration of Independence read “we hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” This opening statement did not include black people, but rather it excluded them under the term that all “men” were not human. As the rest of the United States Constitution eventually clarified enslaved black people were not recognized as human beings and therefore were not entitled to the rights, privileges, and protection of the law. Furthermore, slavery was a legal institution under these sets of beliefs. Another one of the most influential documents of the time was Thomas Jefferson’s Notes on the State of Virginia of 1781. Although Jefferson owned slaves, he...
Cited: Finzsch, Norbet. “ David Walker and The Fight against Slavery ” 2012.
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