Pan-African Profile: Martin R. Delaney ‘Father of Black Nationalism’

Martin Robison Delany (1812-1885) was an African American abolitionist, the first African-American Field Officer in the U.S Army
-A +A

Martin Robison Delany (1812-1885) was an African American abolitionist, the first African-American Field Officer in the U.S Army, and one of the earliest African Americans to encourage a return to Africa.

Delany was born in Charles Town, Virginia (now West Virginia) to a slave father and a free mother. Delany’s mother took her children to Pennsylvania in 1822 to avoid their enslavement and persecution brought on by attempting to teach her children to read and write, which was illegal in the state at that time.

In 1833 Martin Delany began an apprenticeship with a Pittsburgh physician and soon opened a successful medical practice in cupping and leeching (it was not necessary to be certified to practice medicine prior to 1850). In 1843 he began publishing a newspaper in Pittsburgh called The Mystery. Later, Delany joined Frederick Douglass to produce and promote The North Star in Rochester, New York.

Martin R. Delany entered Harvard Medical School in 1850 to finish his formal medical education (along with two other Black students) but was dismissed from the institution after only three weeks as a result of petitions to the school from white students.

Two years later he published "The Condition, Elevation, Emigration, and Destiny of the Colored People of the United States, Politically Considered," claiming that even abolitionists would never accept Blacks as equals and thus the solution to the Black condition lay in the emigration of all African-Americans back to Africa.

In 1859 Delany led an emigration commission to West Africa to explore possible sites for a new Black nation along the Niger River, “We are a nation within a nation, we must go from our oppressors,” he wrote.

When the Civil War began in 1861 Delany returned to the United States. Jettisoning for a time his emigrationist views, Delany recruited thousands of men for the Union Army. In February 1865, after meeting with President Abraham Lincoln to persuade the administration to create an all-Black Corps led by African-American officers, Delaney was commissioned a Major in the 52nd U.S. Colored Troops Regiment. With that appointment he became the first line officer in U.S. Army history.

When Reconstruction began Delany was assigned to the Freedman’s Bureau in South Carolina. There he called for Black pride, the enforcement of Black civil rights and land for the freedpeople. Delany became active in local Republican politics, losing a close election for Lieutenant Governor of South Carolina but later serving briefly as a judge in Charleston, South Carolina.

As the Republicans lost power in the state Delany renewed his calls for emigration, becoming in 1878 an official in the Liberian Exodus Joint Stock Steamship Company. He also wrote in 1879 "The Principia of Ethnology," a book that argued for race pride and purity.

In 1880 Delany withdrew from the Liberian Exodus Company and moved first to Boston, Massachusetts and then to Wilberforce College in Xenia, Ohio.

Martin R. Delany, considered my many as the “father of black nationalism,” died in Xenia, Ohio on January 12, 1885.

Also Check Out...

Florida Republicans intentionally targeted Black voters when they enacted new voting restrictions last year, the justice departm
Florida Republicans Targeted
Caribbrew is a coffee, tea, and chocolate company that offers customers premium products sourced and produced in Haiti.
Black-Owned Caribbrew Coffee
bantamweight champion Aljamain Sterling will make his second title defense against former champ T.J. Dillashaw on October 22nd.
Sterling To Make UFC Title Defense
Puerto Rico 1965-1990 immerses readers in a time and place rich with both culture and contradictions.
Book: “Puerto Rico 1965-1990”
Puma Cricket is garnering all the attention after the company came to the rescue of Winston Benjamin,
Former Antiguan Cricketer’s Plea
"I support Cheney because she actually supports the election results. She's a true Republican and always has been."
Cheney Fighting To Retain Seat