The abolitionist movement was not much popular in the United States in the end of the 1820s. David Walker was one of the first African American abolitionists and his appeal became a turning point in encouraging African Americans to struggle for their freedom. In many ways, “Walker’s Appeal” was inspired by the US Declaration of Independence. The United States represented themselves as a cradle of democracy and equality of all citizens. However, such issues as racism, equal rights for African Americans and finally, slavery were covered neither in the Declaration of Independence, nor in the Bill of Rights. Large strata of population remained without any rights and freedoms. Thus, “Walker’s Appeal” conducts the same function for African Americans as the Declaration of Independence served for White Americans. However, if the Declaration of Independence was supposed to unite all Americans in their struggle, then “Walker’s Appeal” cannot perform the same function because of its radicalism and open hatred towards Whites.
African American slaves whose lives were evaluated not higher than lives of domestic animals needed a trigger for starting to fight for their rights. Their status was intolerable in the country, which pretended to defend democracy and freedom. David Walker who realized the necessity to encourage African Americans to struggle created an appeal to all colored men in the United States. In many aspects the destiny of African Americans was similar to the destiny of American Patriots who struggled for independence of colonies against the British monarchy. American colonists also could not participate legislative processes and enjoy the first-class citizen privileges. However, comparing to African Americans, they were not slaves and had basic human rights. Finally, if White Americans acquired the rights and freedoms, which they needed, then African Americans were still enslaved.
Creating his appeal, David Walker tried not simply copy the Declaration of Independence, but also make it correspondent to the needs of African Americans. Thus, “Walker’s Appeal” may be considered an edition of the Declaration of Independence for Blacks. Walker makes a direct mockery over White Americans, pointing them their rhetoric in the declaration. David Walker argues “ compare your own language above, extracted from your Declaration of Independence, with your cruelties and murders inflicted by your cruel and unmerciful father”. Generally, throughout the appeal, the author often reminds White Americans about what the claims of the Founding Fathers in the Declaration. He compares it to what Americans were doing to African Americans and argues whether their actions were different from usurpations and deprivations of the British government.
All in all, David Walker follows the same principle in his appeal as the Founding Fathers in the Declaration. He passionately believes that all men were created equal and African Americans are not the exception. Walker makes a rhetorical question “I ask them, would they like for us to hold them and their children in abject slavery and wretchedness”. The reply would be obvious, but it does not give the answer to the question why African Americans were enslaved and deprived of all possible human rights. Additionally, in his appeals to God, Walker looks very similar to the Founding Fathers who often referred to God in the Declaration of Independence. At the same time, the author illustrates how ridiculous Americans look like when arguing about their Christian values. If their Christian principles were encouraged more with the Declaration of Independence than with the Bible, then it becomes clear why enslaving other person was considered normal in the United States. In this case, it was obvious that because of such shortcomings of the main American document, it is necessary to update it.
David Walker is as radical as poor was the status of African Americans in the United States. Indeed, he suggests methods and measures, which are quite different from those presented in the Declaration of Independence. “Walker’s Appeal” is much more revolutionary and radical, but it radicalism is justified with extremely low status of African Americans. As well as the Declaration was meant to unite American colonists against the colonial government, “Walker’s Appeal” is aimed at uniting African Americans against slavery, discrimination and racism. Walker argues that colored people are disunited that is “the reason our natural enemies are enabled to keep their feet on our throats”. He draws the parallel between White Americans during the American Revolution and African Americans in his time. He claims that being ignorant and disunited, Blacks will never achieve what Whites had achieved because ignorance of African Americans “contributes almost as much injury to our body as tyrants themselves”. His appeal is supposed to become that mechanism, which would make African Americans aware of their natural right to be equal and deserve more than being slaves on plantations.
“Walker’s Appeal” is a logical continuation of the Declaration of Independence. The Founding Fathers missed to include slavery into the Declaration and the Bill of Rights, while mentioning the right to carry a gun. Walker created an appeal that illustrated the progress of social mind in the United States, although there were few supporters of abolition and even fewer supporters of equality with Blacks. The author suggests African Americans to have the same rights and freedoms as White Americans acquired after the American Revolution. Walker claims that “we have just as much right to hold them and their children in slavery and wretchedness, as they have to hold us”. However, it is impossible to do as they do not even have citizenship and basic human rights. As soon as Black people were not citizens, they could not defend their rights in the court. In case of the Declaration of Independence, although it did not include the point about armed protest, it was clear that the British Empire will not simply let its former colony to secede. Hence, Walker suggests that one cannot acquire freedom without radical actions against suppressor.
Although Walker’s radicalism may be justified, it is evident that his appeal provokes radical Black nationalism, if not open chauvinism and hatred towards White Americans. He not only blames all White Americans in racism and discrimination of Blacks, but also calls for killing Whites who put African Americans into slavery. Walker claims “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”. At the same time, the abolitionist movement had many white members who also desired African American slaves to be free and equal. David Walker constantly calls White Americans as “our natural enemies”. It does not seem that the author even hoped for possible peaceful outcome in that situation, being quite pessimistic about Whites. His determination and radicalism might be beneficial at the initial stages of the abolitionist movement, but it would have been impossible to reach any compromise with such drastic views. Mutual hatred would bring nothing but increasing tension between African Americans and Whites. On the one hand, it is clear that in case of exclusively peaceful protest, African Americans would not get freedom and citizenship in1863 when the Civil War was ended. On the other hand, the course of history proved that it is impossible to live in harmony when such changes are achieved with blood and deaths. Neither the Civil War, nor the Fourteenth Amendment made African Americans equal. African Americans became relatively equal within the society only when the social mind of the majority in the United States agreed with it. Before it happened, African Americans were virtually separate but equal, but actually, they were discriminated in the same way. That is why, the violent approach of struggle for freedom, which is suggested by David Walker, would not be effective.
However, not all Walker’s claims provoke aggression and violence. One of the most important points in his appeal is the struggle against ignorance. Similarly to the Declaration of Independence, “Walker’s Appeal” is an important tool that cultivated self-determination among Black people. American colonists were not quite confident that their rights are violated and it is possible and necessary to oppose it. Most African Americans also could not even imagine that they are mistreated and deserve a better life with the same privileges as White Americans. Black people lost the ideological war to slaveholders who convinced them that it is their destiny to be slaves and have no rights. Walker makes the very first attempt to show African Americans that they lived in lie and slaveholders do not have any right to enslave them and their children. This similarity between the Declaration of Independence and “Walker’s Appeal” only proves the fact that it is a logical continuation of the Declaration, in which the rights of Black people were omitted.
At the same time, even in this case, his radicalism goes too far when Walker claims “let no man of us budge one step, and let slave-holders come to beat us from our country. America is more our country, than it is the whites”. He justifies it with the amount of blood and tears of Black people, but he totally neglects the same contribution of White settlers. Here, Walker disregards his own arguments that African Americans are equal with Whites and deserve the same. From his last statement, it appears that black people have more rights and are superior over White Americans. Undoubtedly, his appeal was addressed only to colored people and Walker did not seem to be concerned about any support of White Americans. However, Walker’s radicalism would only scare potential white supporters of abolition. In many examples from “Walker’s Appeal”, author’s radicalism and unconcealed hatred make his arguments about equality look distorted.
Without any doubts, “Walker’s Appeal” is extremely significant work that laid the foundation of the abolitionist movement. Its founding role for African Americans may be compared to the role of the Declaration of Independence for White people. It played the same role for Black people as the Declaration did for Americans. However, it can be hardly called a basis for doctrine of the movement. Activists who struggled for equality and freedom could not refer to the author who directly expresses hatred and appeals to violence. The problem is that Walker denies his own arguments. Obviously, he defends a right point of view, but it is impossible to eliminate one hatred with other stronger hatred. Instead of calling for mutual understanding, Walker makes claims about the superiority of Black people over Whites and their primary right for the lands in America. This difference makes it difficult to compare “Walker’s Appeal” to the Declaration of Independence, which did not promote hatred to all British people. Certainly, it was a mistake of the Founding Fathers to omit the rights of African Americans, but Walker only cultivates new hatred on the place of the old one, instead of taking all efforts to unite all people of the United States.