During the 1820s and 1830s, northern antislavery groups that demanded the immediate abolition of slavery began to emerge. Led by abolitionists such as William Lloyd Garrison, Arthur Tappan, and Theodore Weld, they instituted an aggressive print campaign against slavery. Abolitionist societies published newspapers and pamphlets that bitterly condemned slavery and called for its extinction. Needless to say, abolitionist literature was not well-received in slaveholding states, including Virginia.
In 1835, a Frederick County, Virginia, grand jury issued a criminal presentment against the Abolition Society of New York. In a lengthy and strongly worded indictment, the grand jury referred to the antislavery organization as an “evil of great magnitude” and accused it of disturbing the peace of the commonwealth and threatening the lives of its citizens by inciting slaves to rebel. The grand jury encouraged local law enforcement agencies throughout Virginia to adopt “increasing vigilance … in the detection of all fanatical emissaries, and in the suppression of their nefarious schemes and publications.” Furthermore, it called on the General Assembly to enforce present laws and enact stricter legislation against written or printed material that encouraged slave insurrection. The presentment also named Arthur Tappan, whom the grand jury considered to be the “prime mover” in the society. Tappan helped found the Abolition Society of New York in 1831, which two years later evolved into the American Anti-Slavery Society… read more »
On 3 March 2011 the University of Virginia’s Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library announced that it recently purchased a copy of David Walker’s anti-slavery “Appeal to the Colored Citizens of the World” from a New Jersey rare-book dealer for $95,000. Readers of Out of the Box will remember that last month Craig Moore, State Records Appraisal Archivist, wrote a post on Walker’s “Appeal”. Not only does the Library of Virginia have a copy of the “Appeal”, we also have the only known extant document written in the hand of David Walker. See Craig’s post to view the letter and read the transcription. The Library’s copy of Walker’s “Appeal” has been microfilmed and is available to researchers in the Library’s West Reading Room (Miscellaneous Reel 5391) and through interlibrary loan.
-Roger Christman, Senior State Records Archivist… read more »
“Remember Americans, that we must and shall be free and enlightened as you are,
will you wait until we shall, under God, obtain our liberty by the crushing arm of power?
Will it not be dreadful for you? I speak Americans for your good. We must and shall be free
I say, in spite of you. You may do your best to keep us in wretchedness and misery,
to enrich you and your children; but God will deliver us from under you.
And wo, wo, will be to you if we have to obtain our freedom by fighting.”
David Walker, Appeal to the Colored Citizens of the World
David Walker, a free black man from Boston, wrote to Thomas Lewis in Richmond on 8 December 1829 enclosing thirty copies of the first edition of his pamphlet An Appeal to the Colored Citizens of the World. Walker instructed Lewis to sell the pamphlet for twelve cents among the Richmond’s African-American population or to provide them free of charge. Walker used Old Testament theology and the natural rights philosophy of the Declaration of Independence to describe the plight of African-Americans, both slave and free, in four articles: “Our wretchedness in consequence of slavery,” “Our wretchedness in consequence of ignorance,” “Our wretchedness in consequence of the preachers of the religion of Jesus Christ,” and “Our wretchedness in … read more »