David Walker’s Appeal

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AMH4160: The Early Republic, 1789-1848

Fall 2008

Voices of the Early Republic Primary Source Assignment #3

David Walker’s Appeal

As one of the more radical sources from the Early Republic, David Walker’s Appeal provides a scathing critique of slavery in the United States. Students sometimes struggle to place this controversial document in the wider context of the times, and instead want to read the Appeal as a radical abolitionist aberration. In a brief, 500-750 word (2-3 pp.) essay, address one of the following two questions regarding the Appeal’s wider significance. You can use simple parenthetical citations (p. 32) to mark specific quotes from the Appeal. Try to quote from Walker’s text, not from Hinks’ introduction or footnotes.

Although it is not required, any additional readings from the course are fair game for excerpts as well. Keep in mind that these brief assignments are meant to allow you to work firsthand with historical documents, so there’s no need to summarize the Appeal or provide tons of background. Focus instead on your argument! These brief essays are due in class on 6 November 2008.

Answer One of These Two Questions

1. As we’ve seen from our discussion of The Kingdom of Matthias, sometimes looking at the extreme ends of a movement can tell us a great deal about the context in which the broader movement occurred. With that idea of looking at the radical ends to understand the wider middle, what do you think David Walker’s Appeal to the Colored Citizens of the World might tell us about the broader American abolition movement of the Early Republic? In a similar vein, do you think that the Appeal would have the same impact upon black and white readers? Why or why not?

2. It is perhaps tempting to characterize David Walker’s Appeal to the Colored Citizens of the World as solely an abolitionist tract. If you were asked, though, to place this pamphlet within the wider context of religious revivalism or social reform in the Early Republic, do you think that it is possible? Or do you think that this work is a departure from those movements?
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