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David Walker, Appeal, in Four Articles, 1829

How did the principles of the Declaration of Independence contribute to the quest to end slavery from colonial times to the outbreak of the Civil War?

  • I can interpret primary sources related to Founding principles of liberty, equality, and justice from the colonial era to the outbreak of the Civil War.
  • I can explain how laws and policy, courts, and individuals and groups contributed to or pushed back against the quest to end slavery. 
  • I can create an argument using evidence from primary sources. 
  • I can analyze issues in history to help find solutions to present-day challenges.

Building Context 

The son of an enslaved father and a free mother, David Walker published his pamphlet, Walker’s Appeal, in Four Articles; Together with a Preamble, to the Coloured Citizens of the World, but in Particular, and Very Expressly, to Those of the United States of America, in 1829. Although he was never enslaved, Walker witnessed the evils of slavery and racism during his childhood in North Carolina. After moving to Boston and setting up a clothing store, he found himself in the company of activists who shared his desire to end slavery. Before writing the pamphlet, Walker contributed regularly to Freedom’s Journal, the first African American newspaper published in the United States. Unlike gradual emancipationists, who believed the enslaved should be gradually freed, Walker urged enslaved people to rebel against their masters to bring about an immediate abolition of slavery. In his arguments, he made heavy use of biblical and historical references and cited the Declaration of Independence. The following passage comes from his concluding thoughts.

Appeal, in Four Articles, 1829


. . . Remember Americans, that we must and shall be free and enlightened as you are, will you wait until we shall, under God, obtain our liberty by the crushing arm of power? Will it not be dreadful for you? I speak Americans for your good. . . . Throw away your fears and prejudices then, and enlighten us and treat us like men, and we will like you more than we do now hate you . . . America is as much our country, as it is yours.–Treat us like men, and there is no danger but we will all live in peace and happiness together.

Comprehension and Analysis Questions

  1. Who was the intended audience for Walker’s pamphlet?
  2. What does Walker ask of his white readers in this passage?
  3. How does this document contribute to an understanding of the role of free black communities in the fight to end slavery? Consider the place and context in which Walker wrote this pamphlet.