Today I would like to honor and pay tribute to David Walker, abolitionist and voice for social justice. Walker is believed to have been born in 1796 and died in 1830. During his short life of 33 years, Walker left an indelible mark in history and left an amazing legacy of tireless efforts towards equity and equality for African Americans.
Walker’s mother was a free black, and thus Walker was also born a “free black.” Although he grew up in North Carolina, after witnessing the atrocities black people were subjected to, he moved to Boston in 1825. He worked as a sales agent and writer for Freedom’s Journal, published in New York, the first newspaper owned and operated by African Americans. This experience honed his writing voice and created an enthusiasm for activism in the black community.
Walker is probably best known for his pamphlet An Appeal to the Coloured Citizens of the World. Viewed as radical in its day, it called for direct action within the African American community to oppose slavery. He called on all African Americans to resist oppression and strive for personal responsibility. He argued that free blacks must work toward abolition as a political goal and pursue more comprehensive education. While appreciative of the early white abolitionist voices, he argued that relying on a return of liberty strictly from the people who had restricted it was unreasonable. Walker created organized resistance to the false and racist rhetoric that President Jefferson published regarding the “inferiority of blacks.” Granted, Jefferson was a complex and contradictory human being, who did support the abolitionist movement.
Walker’s Appeal was so powerful and influential that another one of my heroes, William Lloyd Garrison extracted much of Walker’s message in his publication The Liberator. Many of you may recognize Garrison’s name, for he was also a suffragist. I take great solace in knowing that Walker’s work lived on and informed so many activist and abolitionists.