David Walker has often been regarded as an abolitionist with Black Nationalist views, in large measure because Walker envisioned a future for black Americans that included self-rule. As he wrote in the Appeal, “Our sufferings will come to an end, in spite of all the Americans this side of eternity. Then we will want all the learning and talents, and perhaps more, to govern ourselves.”
Scholars, such as historian Sterling Stuckey, have remarked upon the connection between Walker’s Appeal and black nationalism. In his 1972 study of The Ideological Origins of Black Nationalism, Stuckey suggested that Walker’s Appeal “would become an ideological foundation… for Black Nationalist theory.” Though some historians have said that Stuckey overstated the extent to which Walker contributed to the creation of a black nation, Thabiti Asukile, in a 1999 article on “The All-Embracing Black Nationalist Theories of David Walker’s Appeal”, defended Stuckey’s interpretation. Asukile writes:
Though scholars may continue to debate this, it would seem hard to disprove that the later advocates of black nationalism in America, who advocated a separate nation-state based on geographical boundaries during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, would not have been able to trace certain ideological concepts to Walker’s writings. Stuckey’s interpretation of the Appeal as a theoretical black nationalist document is a polemical crux for some scholars who aver that David Walker desired to live in a multicultural America. Those who share this view must consider that Stuckey does not limit his discourse on the Appeal to a black nationalism narrowly defined, but rather to a range of sentiments and concerns. Stuckey’s concept of a black nationalist theory rooted in African slave folklore in America is an original and pioneering one, and his intellectual insights are valuable to a progressive rewriting of African-American history and culture.
This country is as much ours as it is the whites, whether they will admit it now or not, they will see and believe it by and by.
— Walker, Article IV, p. 58
Walker distributed his pamphlet through black communication networks along the Atlantic coast, which included free and enslaved black civil rights activists, laborers, black church and revivalist networks, contacts with free black benevolent societies, and maroon communities.
Henry Highland Garnet
Colonization and the Creation of a Black Nationality “There is but one class of people of whom every man, white or colored, should be ashamed; they are those who are ashamed of their natural descent and their identity with their own race.”1 Garnet described himself as a supporter of “God, universal liberty, African civilization, and negro nationality.”2 Although elements of black nationalism were implemented before and during Garnet’s time, the ideology as understood today had not been fully developed. Garnet acted as a key figure in the development of racial pride and identity for black Americans. Before Garnet, the Haitian independence movement, Nat Turner’s attempted slave rebellion in Virginia, and Denmark Vesey’s rebellion and trial were crucial developments within black nationalism. But it was not until 1829, when both Robert Alexander Young’s “Militant Pamphlet” and David Walker’s “Walker’s Appeal” were published and distributed, that a black nationalist ideology began to be conceptualized.3 Garnet, an admirer of David Walker, expanded these early views and supported efforts that proved the ability of the black race, promoted black identity, and presented a proud ethos of his color to the public. Taking a deeper look at Garnet’s rhetoric on black nationalism provides insight into how this social and political movement developed and how language influenced related philosophies and arguments. Garnet strongly advocated black power. His rhetoric encouraged pride and dignity among black Americans. Ernest G. Bormann stresses that the early rhetoric of black power “continue[s] to provide harmonic overtones for the symphony of inherited meanings which swirls around every citizen of the United 60
States as contemporary America debates racial justice and black power.”4 Garnet’s rhetoric promoting black nationality aids in better understanding the history of black nationalism and the rhetoric that encapsulated its ideologies and policies. Through Garnet’s support of emigration, he also supported an interesting and pragmatic implementation of black nationalism that will be explored in this chapter. Garnet wanted the black community to fight its own fight. He believed African Americans should receive equal rights because they deserved it. He announced, “Brethren, by united, vigorous, and judicious and manly efforts, we can redeem ourselves. But we must put forth our own exertions. We must exert our own powers. Our political enfranchisement cometh not from afar.”5 He did not want blacks to be dependent on the mercy of white politicians. Not only did Garnet support the creation of a coordinated and united black newspaper, he also encouraged united and active political action among African Americans. He believed blacks could improve their condition by working together to earn political power and protection. Whites tended to compromise too much on the issues that mattered the most. Thus, Garnet became an important figure in early black nationalism because he promoted history, black militancy, voluntary emigration, and independent black leadership.
Haki Kweli Shakur August Third Collective NAPLA NAIM 11-7-51ADM