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Edward Garrison Walker: From Artisan To Attorney

Written by Reve Fisher

By Kelvin Muhia

Edward Garrison Walker, also known as Edwin G. Walker, was an African-American artisan, lawyer and politician born in Boston, Massachusetts. Although his exact date of birth remains unknown, Edward was born in 1831 as a free citizen of Eliza and David Walker. According to sources, Edward’s mother was allegedly believed to be a fugitive slave. His father was an abolitionist nationally known for authoring the “David Walker’s Appeal” in 1829 with aims of ending slavery.

Walker was educated in Boston’s public school system as a free African American and also received leather training as a young man. He later established his own business and employed 15 employees. Walker followed the footsteps of his father through becoming an abolitionist. In 1951, he along with Robert Morris and Lewis Hayden collaborated to gain the release of Shadrach Minkins, a fugitive slave from Virginia who had been arrested in Boston by U.S. Marshals.

After fighting for the release of Minkins, the three men (Walker, Robert and Lewis) were praised by most Boston residents who were resisting the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act Law. After the release of Shadrach, Walker was inspired by the Blackstone’s Commentaries, which piqued his interest in studying law. Shortly after, he managed to study law where he served as an apprentice in the offices of John Q. A. Griffins and Charles A. Tweed in Massachusetts. After passing his law examination in 1861, he became the third African American to be admitted to the Massachusetts Bar in Suffolk County.

Edward Walker later transitioned from law to politics. In 1866, he along with Lewis Mitchell were elected to represent ward 3 and 6 and were named as the first African Americans to be elected in the Massachusetts State Legislature in the United States. During his term as a legislator, Walker opposed most of the fellow Republicans ideas, who consequently refused to re-nominate him in 1867. He joined the Democratic Party and became one of the many African Americans to switch parties. Due to his prominence in politics, Walker drew a number of other African Americans to desert the Republican Party to join the Democrats.

Walker forged alliances with Civil War hero Benjamin F. Butler and was nominated as a state judge at a time when the Republican Party held the majority in the state legislature. Due to this reason, the Republicans refused to ratify the nomination and instead voted for a fellow African American Republican George L. Ruffin for the judgeship position.

In 1885, Walker along with other black leaders including George T. Dawning formed the Negro Political movement. Five years later, Walker was elected president of the Colored National League party, and in 1896, he was nominated for the United States presidency by the Negro Party. On January 13th, 1901, Edward G. Walker succumbed to pneumonia in Boston, Massachusetts, where he died at the age of 71.

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Reve Fisher

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