restricted access David Walker (1785-1830)
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David Walker (1785-1830) · Rita Dove Free to travel, he still couldn't be shown how lucky he was: They strip and beat and drag us about like rattlesnakes. Home on Brattle Street, he took in the sign on the door of the slop shop. All day at the counter— white caps, ale-stained pea coats. Compass needles, eloquent as tuning forks, shivered, pointing north. Evenings, the ceiling fan sputtered like a second pulse. Oh Heaven! I am full!! I can hardly move my pen!! On the faith of an eye-wink, pamphlets were stuffed into trouser pockets. Pamphlets transported in the coat linings of itinerant seamen, jackets ringwormed with salt traded drunkenly to pursers in the Carolinas, pamphlets ripped out, read aloud: Men of colour, who are also of sense. Outrage. Incredulity. Uproar in state legislatures. We are the most wretched, degraded and abject set of beings that ever lived since the world began. The jewelled canaries in the lecture halls tittered, pressed his dark hand between their gloves. Every half-step was no step at all. Every morning, the man on the corner strung a fresh bunch of boots from his shoulders. "I'm happy!" he said. "I never want to live any better or happier than when I can get a-plenty of boots and shoes to clean! " A second edition. A third. The abolitionist press is perfectly appalled. Humanity, kindness and the fear of the Lord does not consist in protecting devils. A month— his person (is that all?) found face-down in the doorway at Brattle Street, his frame slighter than friends remembered. 56 ¦ The Missouri Review ...

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