Father of Black Nationalism

Martin R Delany

One  of the individuals I found on my search for people important in the Monongahela Valley area during the Underground Railroad era was Martin Robinson Delany. He was born in Charles Town, Virginia (now West Virginia) to a free black women (Pati) and a slave black man (Samuel) in 1812.

Delany, a proficient and prolific writer, founded the first African-American newspaper, The Mystery, in 1843 and was its editor until 1847. He joined Frederick Douglass as an editor and writer of the North Star for 18 months. When their philosophies on how the black man was to be integrated into society differed, they went their own ways.

While Douglass advocated for integration for the black man, Delany argued for self-help in the black community or for separation through emigration. Whereas Douglass wanted the black man to blend into society, Delaney’s radical pride in his race bristled white society.

~Frederick Douglass is to Martin Luther King Jr. as Martin Delany is to Malcolm X.

In response to Douglass’ 1853 Black Convention in Rochester, NY, Delany organized a Black Emigration Convention a year later in Cleveland, OH. Originally, Delany wanted African-Americans to emigrate to Central and/or South America, but later changed to Africa.

This emigration is not to be confused with the American Colonization Society. ACS wanted to ship free blacks to Africa and control the leadership of the colony. Delany wanted blacks to emigrate to Africa and control their own society.

Delany thought emigration to Africa would take away the laborers in the South affecting the economic climate. Since “more than three-fourths of the cotton used in the textile industries of England and France came from the American South,”¹ disrupting cotton production was a short-term goal to improve blacks’ living and working conditions. He felt that stopping work completely, and not organizing groups for better wages and conditions, would make plantation owners realize how important black people were to the farm’s profitability.

¹Dick Weeks,  Civil War Home. Ed. Dick Weeks, February 16, 2002, accessed April 6, 2011. http://www.civilwarhome.com/kingcotton.htm.

Photo – http://hd.housedivided.dickinson.edu/node/25023?size=preview


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Published in: on April 3, 2011 at 9:44 pm  Comments (2)  

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Was Delany active in the Underground Railroad?

    • Yes. He was not a Levi Coffin, Rankin, or Tubman but was a prominent leader in the 19th century. He advocated for rights of African Americans. He teamed up with Frederick Douglass for about 18 months. They differed on approach to achieve acceptance of blacks by whites. Delany was more in your face with black pride whereas Douglass wanted blacks to blend into society. As I mentioned in another post – Delany was more like Macolm X and Douglass like MLK, Jr.


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