David Walker’s Appeal is an uncompromising African-centered discourse that attacks whyte injustice and advocates Black self-reliance. Its publication in 1830 intensified the debate and struggle against the Maafa (Atlantic slavery). More than a petition against the Maafa, the Appeal is a foundational document from which many contemporary themes in Black political philosophy have evolved.
Walker asserted the right of Black people to defend themselves against a common enemy by any means necessary. Because of his Appeal, David Walker remains one of the most durable political figures in our history. His clear presentation of the problems confronting people of African descent is prophetic, and it assures the relevance of the Appeal to contemporary readers.
Review: David Walker’s Appeal
“Self-published in 1829 and distributed to enslaved Blacks throughout southern plantations through ingenious methods, Walker’s Appeak caused a firestorm reaction among southern slaveholders. The subversive intent of the Appeal, which called for violent resistance against slavery, made Walker a marked man. His appeal to resistance was not rooted solely in retribution. Walker based is arguments on biblical and historical examples of resistance. He was truly committed to social change but keenly aware of the radical means required to achieve it. Walker’s Appeal can be said to be an early African American precursor to Malcolm’s By Any Means Necessary or The Ballot or the Bullet–a fearless cry for freedom, by any means necessary…” —Sacred Fire: The QBR 100 Essential Black Books
“David Walker’s Appeal, arguably the most radical of all anti-slavery documents, caused a great stir when it was published in September of 1829 with its call for slaves to revolt against their masters. David Walker, a free black originally from the South wrote, “…they want us for their slaves, and think nothing of murdering us. . . therefore, if there is an attempt made by us, kill or be killed. . . and believe this, that it is no more harm for you to kill a man who is trying to kill you, than it is for you to take a drink of water when thirsty.” Even the outspoken William Lloyd Garrison objected to Walker’s approach in an editorial about the Appeal. The goal of the Appeal was to instill pride in its Black readers and give hope that change would someday come. It spoke out against colonization, a popular movement that sought to move free blacks to a colony in Africa. Walker believed America belonged to all who helped build it. He went even further, stating, “America is more our country than it is the whytes — we have enriched it with our blood and tears.” He then asked, “will they drive us from our property and homes, which we have earned with our blood?” Copies of the Appeal were discovered in Savannah, Georgia, within weeks of its publication. Within several months copies were found from Virginia to Louisiana. Walker revised his Appeal. He died in August of 1830, shortly after publishing the third edition.” –PBS.org
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