Program in the History of the Book  in American Culture

The Textual Effects of David Walker's "Appeal": Print-Based Activism Against Slavery, Racism, and Discrimination, 1829-1851

with Marcy J. Dinius

November 17 at 2PM ET

Approx. 1 hour

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This virtual book talk is free, but registration is required. You will be sent an email with a link and instructions on how to join the program upon registration. Closed captioning is available as an option via Zoom’s live transcription.

Historians and literary historians alike recognize David Walker's Appeal to the Coloured Citizens of the World (1829-1830) as one of the most politically radical and consequential antislavery texts ever published, yet the pamphlet's significant impact on North American nineteenth-century print-based activism has gone under-examined. In The Textual Effects of David Walker's "Appeal" Marcy J. Dinius offers the first in-depth analysis of Walker's argumentatively and typographically radical pamphlet and its direct influence on five Black and Indigenous activist authors, Maria W. Stewart, William Apess, William Paul Quinn, Henry Highland Garnet, and Paola Brown, and the pamphlets that they wrote and published in the United States and Canada between 1831 and 1851. She also examines how Walker's Appeal exerted a powerful and lasting influence on William Lloyd Garrison's Liberator and other publications by White antislavery activists.

Dinius contends that scholars have neglected the positive, transnational, and transformative effects of Walker's Appeal on print-based political activism and literary and book history—that is, its primarily textual effects—due to an enduringly narrow focus on the violence that the pamphlet may have occasioned. She offers as an alternative a broadened view of activism and resistance that centers the works of Walker, Stewart, Apess, Quinn, Garnet, and Brown within an exploration of radical forms of authorship, publication, civic participation, and resistance. In doing so, she has written a major contribution to African American literary studies and the history of the book in antebellum America.

Marcy J. Dinius is Professor of English at DePaul University. She recently returned to Chicago from Tokyo, where she was a 2022 Fulbright Lecturer at Tsuda University and Ochanomizu University. She received her Ph.D. from Northwestern University and has held postdoctoral fellowships at the University of Pennsylvania, the Library of Congress, and the Library Company of Philadelphia. The Textual Effects of David Walker’s Appeal was published in April 2022 by the University of Pennsylvania Press. Her first book, The Camera and the Press: American Visual and Print Culture in the Age of the Daguerreotype (2012) was also published by Penn Press. Her work explores the means and limits of aesthetic and political representation and can be found in journals including PMLA, J19, Early American Studies and in several edited collections.

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