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Tue, 09.27.1796

David Walker, Abolitionist born

David Walker

On this date, the Registry remembers the birth of David Walker in 1796. He was a Black abolitionist and publisher.

Born in Wilmington, N. C., to a slave father and a free mother, Walker grew up free, obtained an education, and traveled throughout the country. Settling in Boston, he became involved in the abolitionist movement and frequently contributed to Freedom's Journal, an anti-slavery weekly. Sometime in the 1820s, he opened a secondhand clothing store on the Boston waterfront. Through this business, he could purchase clothes taken from sailors in barter for a drink and then resell them to seamen about to embark.

In the copious pockets of these garments, he concealed copies of his Appeal, which he reasoned would reach Southern ports and pass through the hands of other used clothes dealers who would know what to do with them. He also used sympathetic black seamen to distribute pamphlets directly.  When the smuggled pamphlets began to appear in the South, the states reacted with legislation prohibiting the circulation of abolitionist literature and forbidding slaves to learn to read and write. Warned that his life was in danger, Walker refused to flee to Canada.  His body was found soon afterward near his shop, and many believed he had been poisoned. David Walker died on June 28, 1830, in Boston.

His "Appeal for a slave revolt," widely reprinted after his death, was accepted by a small minority of abolitionists. Still, most anti-slavery leaders and free blacks rejected his call for violence at the time. His only son, Edwin G. Walker, was elected to the Massachusetts legislature in 1866. His pamphlet, Appeal to the Colored Citizens of the World 1829 (shown), urging slaves to fight for their freedom, was one of the most radical documents of the antislavery movement.

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David Walker

History of American Slavery
by Duncan Clarke JG Press
Copyright 1998 PRC Publishing Ltd.
ISBN 1 57215 256 7

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