Black abolitionist David Walker solid a fiery, fearless legacy


This Black Historical past Month, the Globe is saluting individuals who have made a distinction in Massachusetts.

David Walker’s livelihood and residence didn’t set him other than many Bostonians within the early nineteenth century. He owned a used-clothing store on what’s now Metropolis Corridor Plaza and lived in a vibrant, Black group on Beacon Hill, solely an extended stone’s throw away.

However Walker’s 1829 pamphlet, an “Attraction to the Coloured Residents of the World,” was a revolutionary doc that lit a hearth beneath the rising abolition motion, which discovered a house in Boston, and terrified Southern slaveholders.

America had by no means learn something prefer it.

“My object is, if potential, to awaken within the breasts of my troubled, degraded, and slumbering brethren a spirit of inquiry and investigation respecting our miseries and wretchedness on this Republican Land of Liberty,” Walker wrote.

Walker’s name for freedom, abolitionist Frederick Douglass mentioned, “startled the land like a trump of coming judgment.”

Walker, who died in 1830 at age 34, isn’t extensively recognized right this moment, though a plaque marks his residence on Pleasure Avenue. However when the “Attraction” was revealed, its message was a clarion name free of charge Black folks, who embraced its demand for civil rights, and the enslaved, who had been learn clandestine copies smuggled into Southern ports by Black sailors who had handed by Boston.

Authorities officers in Georgia had been so alarmed by the “Attraction” that they provided a $10,000 bounty for Walker’s seize; $1,000 if lifeless.

The “Attraction” made a broad mental and ethical case for racial equality, assailing an America that embraced faith but additionally may rationalize the immorality of slavery.

A non secular man, Walker was born in Wilmington, N.C., and moved to Boston in 1825, the place he settled on the north slope of Beacon Hill. He was lively within the African Methodist Episcopal Church and helped discovered the Massachusetts Common Coloured Affiliation.

Walker, who reportedly died of tuberculosis, was buried in a probably segregated, now-vanished cemetery off Dorchester Avenue in South Boston. His son, Edwin, turned one of many first two Black lawmakers elected to the Massachusetts Legislature.

Walker’s legacy, though usually overshadowed among the many nice abolitionists, is gaining growing discover by the rising efforts of activists, historians, and others who’re drawn to his exceptional story.

Brian MacQuarrie could be reached at

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