A Social History of the American Negro eBook

Benjamin Griffith Brawley
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 546 pages of information about A Social History of the American Negro.



It is not the purpose of the present chapter primarily to consider social progress on the part of the Negro.  A little later we shall endeavor to treat this interesting subject for the period between the Missouri Compromise and the Civil War.  Just now we are concerned with the attitude of the Negro himself toward the problem that seemed to present itself to America and for which such different solutions were proposed.  So far as slavery was concerned, we have seen that the remedy suggested by Denmark Vesey and Nat Turner was insurrection.  It is only to state an historical fact, however, to say that the great heart of the Negro people in the South did not believe in violence, but rather hoped and prayed for a better day to come by some other means.  But what was the attitude of those people, progressive citizens and thinking leaders, who were not satisfied with the condition of the race and who had to take a stand on the issues that confronted them?  If we study the matter from this point of view, we shall find an amount of ferment and unrest and honest difference of opinion that is sometimes overlooked or completely forgotten in the questions of a later day.

1. Walker’s “Appeal

The most widely discussed book written by a Negro in the period was one that appeared in Boston in 1829.  David Walker, the author, had been born in North Carolina in 1785, of a free mother and a slave father, and he was therefore free.[1] He received a fair education, traveled widely over the United States, and by 1827 was living in Boston as the proprietor of a second-hand clothing store on Brattle Street.  He felt very strongly on the subject of slavery and actually seems to have contemplated leading an insurrection.  In 1828 he addressed various audiences of Negroes in Boston and elsewhere, and in 1829 he published his Appeal, in four articles; together with a Preamble to the Coloured Citizens of the World, but in particular, and very expressly, to those of the United States of America.  The book was remarkably successful.  Appearing in September, by March of the following year it had reached its third edition; and in each successive edition the language was more bold and vigorous.  Walker’s projected insurrection did not take place, and he himself died in 1830.  While there was no real proof of the fact, among the Negro people there was a strong belief that he met with foul play.

[Footnote 1:  Adams:  Neglected Period of Anti-Slavery, 93.]

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