David Walker (1785 – 1830)

Born in Wilmington, North Carolina to a free mother and a slave father, David Walker later moved to Boston, Massachusetts and emerged as one of the United States’s most radical black pamphleteers.  In his Appeal to the Coloured Citizens of the World, Walker urged slaves to revolt against their masters and criticized the state of Christianity in the young North American nation.  He died mysteriously in 1830.  

As a boy, Walker started hating the peculiar institution and vowed to do all in his power to destroy slavery.  He left North Carolina and headed for Boston, where he opened a clothing store in 1827 and married in 1828.  He and his wife sheltered fugitive slaves, and he started lecturing about slavery to larger and larger crowds.  

After Appeal’s publication, some urged Walker to leave Boston for Canada, for they feared slaveowners had a price for his life.  He stayed in Boston, however.  At the age of forty-four he died.  Some have speculated that he was murdered by poison.  His biographer, Henry Highland Garnet, avoids making claims and simply states that the North Carolina native died at his home on Bridge Street.


Henry Highland Garnet, Walker’s Appeal, With A Brief Sketch of His Life (New York, 1848); Milton Ready, The Tar Heel State: A History of North Carolina (Columbia, 2006); Gayraud S. Wilmore, Black Religion and Black Radicalism: An Interpretation of the Religious History of Afro-American People (New York, 1993).