David Walker


David Walker’s Appeal Essay, Research Paper


David Walker’s Appeal addresses the African Americans and the European Americans, challenging each group to take action. He acknowledges the “wretchedness” of blacks, which he believes is a result of slavery and the whites’ fears of freeing enslaved blacks. He continuously challenges Thomas Jefferson’s Notes on Virginia and uses direct quotes to analyze, criticize, and mock Jefferson’s work to the utmost, proving that Jefferson contradicts himself numerous of times. Walker believes that oppression will one day be lifted from the shoulders of black men and that they will rise together as one. He stresses the wrongdoings of the whites and uses the Declaration of Independence to contradict them and also, stresses the importance of the blacks to take a stand against their oppressors. Walker’s attitude shifts throughout the text, displaying courage, contempt, disregard, and resentment towards the whites, and bravery, conviction, weariness, and hopefulness towards the blacks. I think his direct and argumentative style works well with his readers, establishing him as a great leader and instigator of abolitionists. I believe that Walker’s statements and observations about taking immediate action most effectively reached his white readers and caused great uneasiness and stress among them, while also providing further reassurance among his black readers.


Walker believes without a doubt that blacks “are the most degraded, wretched, and abject set of beings that ever lived” as a result of slavery (194). Slavery stripped blacks of their identities, leaving them vulnerable in a land that was unknown to them. The cruel and unusual punishment that whites inflicted on blacks through slavery cannot be compared to any other enslavement nor can it be refuted. Through his Appeal and the help of the Almighty, Walker hopes to “open your hearts to understand and believe the truth” so that blacks can act to remedy their “wretchedness” and replace it with happiness, life, and liberty. Walker believes that his hopes can be accomplished because their situation cannot get any worse, but only better. Progress is what he is aiming for, no matter how small the change is. Throughout the Appeal, quotes from Thomas Jefferson’s Notes on Virginia are repeatedly used, criticized, and analyzed by Walker, who wishes to see Jefferson’s charges refuted by other blacks also.

Walker states that Jefferson was supposedly the greatest philosopher of his time and that other Americans believe and hold great respect for his work and ideas. It is this outlook on Jefferson which causes Walker to think that Jefferson’s “spiteful remarks” concerning blacks and slavery has further hurt their situation than assessed it (Walker 195). Jefferson believed that blacks have and always will remain inferior to whites, with no rights at all. He believed that blacks were not humans, requiring no rights, but were more equal to animals “gradations in all the races of animals-excuse an effort to keep those in the department of man as distinct as nature has formed them?” (Jefferson 197).


Also, Jefferson compares blacks’ enslavement to that of the Romans, which Walker and others believe are incomparable in every way. Romans had the opportunity to learn, educate others, and regain their freedom, while laws were made to forever keep blacks illiterate, uneducated, and enslaved. This was probably the case that whites were afraid to free black slaves because they believed that they would someday gain power and retaliate against them. Jefferson believed that blacks are inferior in both body and mind, and Walker believed that blacks lived up to whites’ stereotypes by their “groveling submissions” and “treachery” (Jefferson 197). Walker wants blacks to prove to themselves, as well at to the world, that they are nowhere near inferior to any group and deserve the equal rights that the law of nature provides them with.

Walker’s Appeal addresses the oppression situation as well as the “wretchedness” among blacks in America, daring both racial groups to refute his claims or make a change. He is fully aware of both audiences and uses a very, direct tactic of getting his points across by insulting and ridiculing America’s most prominent philosopher, Thomas Jefferson. He also brings attention to the Declaration of Independence and points out the Founders many contradictions in their laws, which makes the whole government appear to be hypocrisy. Walker asks many rhetorical questions throughout his Appeal, enlightens his readers as well as leaves them pondering over the answers. Slavery was wrong and should not have been endured by anyone, but some of Walker’s hopes were accomplished. Blacks became equals with the right to vote because they finally decided


to take action. Walker’s words inspired blacks to take action for their freedom and rights. He also inspired some whites to look at blacks differently and others to take a different type of action and end his life.

Walker, David. “Walker’s Appeal.” Negotiating Difference: Cultural Case Studies for Composition Ed. Patricia Bizzell and Bruce Herzberg.

Boston: Bedford/ St. Martin’s Press, 1996.

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