MARTIN R. DELANY

MARTIN R. DELANY

1812-1885

Martin R. Delany, called “the father of black nationalism,” was the son of a free woman in Charles Town, West Virginia. One of his great grandfathers had been a chief, and another a prince in their native Africa. He published his own jour¬ nal, The Mystery, in 1847, before joining Frederick Douglass (see no. 14).

Co-editors of The North Star newspaper, Delany and Dou¬ glass printed a statement of their beliefs in 1847: “It is evident we must be our own representatives and advocates, not exclusively, but peculiarly — not distinct from, but in connection with our white friends. In the grand struggle for liberty and equality now waging, it is meet, right and essential that there should arise in our ranks authors and editors, as well as ora¬ tors….”

Douglass and Delany’s ideology rested on the hope that white Americans were capable of assessing African-Ameri¬ cans honestly once they shared the same intellectual positions. They waited for a day when black men and women would lift themselves to positions equal to those of learned and respected white Americans.

Delany, whose pride and dignity became the foundation of his politics, went to Har¬ vard Medical School in 1850, and emerged ‘ one of the most powerful antebellum influ¬ ences in America. His politics shifted, as evidenced in his book, The Condition, Ele¬ vation, Emigration and Destiny of the Col¬ ored People of the United States, Political- . ly Considered, which was self-published in 1853.

He claimed with great eloquence that since African-Americans had not written v their own history or made their own choic¬ es, their characters were still hidden.Delany therefore urged African-Americans to move to eastern Africa where the hard work of building a free society would bring out their strongest talents.

In 1859, Delany visited Liberia (see no. 5) and began an emigration campaign, which he abandoned when the Civil War made it possible for African-Americans to achieve respect by serving equally in the armed forces. In a letter to War Secretary Edwin Stanton, Delany said “We will be ready and able to raise a regiment….This is one of the measures in which the claims of the black man may be officially recognized….”

Delany entered local politics after the war, only reconsidering emigration in the late 1870s. Though he and Frederick Dou¬ glass differed in their ideologies, both believed that freedom was worth all risk, whether it be here in America, or in a new country in Africa.