Analyzing David Walker’s Appeal from the White Southern Antebellum Perspective

This assignment was to write a 2-3 paragraph evaluation of Walker’s Appeal from a white southern person’s perspective living during the antebellum period. The purpose was to consider how you might use Walker’s Appeal to explain the significance of race or the system of slavery at the time of its publication.

Analyzing David Walker’s Appeal from the White Southern Antebellum Perspective

By Tom White

 As a white southern citizen living during the antebellum time period, and after reading Walker’s Appeal I would have probably felt a whole range of emotions. The most prevalent of these emotions would have been one of self-conflict. As a white southerner if I was to accept any part of Walker’s Appeal, then I would essentially be questioning my entire existence and way of life. The South at the time of Walker’s Appeal was built upon a slave economy, one which Walker’s Appeal so eloquently argues was based upon inequality. The foundation of Walker’s Appeal is one which questions and attacks the very fabric of white southern society. To understand why a White southerner would have felt conflicted, one needs to only harken back to the beginning of the 19th century, where the concept of America’s independence would have been still relatively fresh in people’s minds. Walker’s Appeal would have created so much emotional conflict because Walker supported his arguments of injustice by using the very words of one America’s founding fathers, Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson according to Walker made the claim “that our [Blacks] condition is not so hard, as the slaves were under the Romans”[1], yet Walker makes the point that even under Roman law once a slave received his freedom he could aspire to rise unfettered within the Roman state, something prohibited by law for American slaves. Another reason a white southerner would have been conflicted was because Walker’s Appeal also questioned southern Christian values, by exposing it’s hypocrisy with his precise recital of biblical verse condemning slavery. As a white antebellum southerner if I were to seriously consider any of Walker’s arguments then I in affect would have to deny everything that I was brought up to believe, be it my religious beliefs, my sense of America, as well as my entire way of life.

  Also as a white antebellum southerner Walker’s Appeal would probably have also evoked a feeling of fear. This fear would have emanated from the very fact that an entire race of people whom I was led to believe were an ignorant and unfeeling race because of the dehumanizing efforts of my own society, were not that at all what I had been raised to believe they were. The writings by Walker a Black man serve to dispel that falsehood. The real fear I would have felt would have come through awareness. Awareness that a people who were on the receiving end all those years, were actually thinking something totally different than what I had previously believed. Also from a white southern antebellum standpoint if I was to accept any of what Walker proclaimed in his Appeal, then a new world would emerge, one where the veil of inequality was lifted, and life could not be the same again. I would know that slaves know, and that they feel injustice. I would also know that it was only a matter of time before my own life would change forever.

 Walker’s Appeal serves as an excellent primary source in much the same way that W.E.B. DuBois stood out as figure for racial equality while writing from the perspective of an African American, as opposed to many of the racist writings of historians of that timeframe. Walker’s Appeal serves as a good historical source for educating Americans “about the nature and consequences of racism, thereby fostering progress toward a society of greater justice and opportunity”[2].


[1] David Walker. “Walker’s Appeal, in Four Articles; Together with a Preamble.” (Documenting the South. Available from http://docsouth.unc.edu/nc/walker/walker.html. Internet; accessed 1 February 2009), 19

[2] Anthony Brundage. “Going to the Sources” (Wheeling: Harland Davidson, 2008), 8

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