The use of history as a tool of liberation is an ongoing battle that the African in American Community must come to grips with.
too many African in American people reject the use of history as a tool
to understand the past, the present, and the future. The rejection of
history, by many of us, results in the denial of our true condition and
situation as thirty million people living in the United States.
time to time, in reflecting on our history and our present situation as
a race, I reread a most profound book. In fact, I suggest that all
African in American people read this book and become familiar with the
work of this unsung hero in our struggle, Dr. Martin R. Delany. Martin
R. Delany (a contemporary of Frederick Douglass and co-founder with
Douglass of The North Star Newspaper) was a
fearless and independent champion for the cause of our redemption from
1840 until his death in January 1885 at the age of 72.
Delany was known as the most prominent advocate of African in American
nationalism in the nineteenth-century. It was in his book, written in
1852, The Condition, Elevation, Emigration, and Destiny of the Colored People of the United States
that Delany’s view of the situation of our race became widely known.
was free born in Charleston, Virginia on May 6, 1812. In an effort to
improve their situation, the Delany’s moved to Chambersburg,
Pennsylvania when Martin was ten years old. At the age of nineteen,
young Martin moved to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania where he worked as a
barber and studied with an African in American minister named Lewis
Woodson. Woodson is given credit for shaping Delany’s political thought.
was in Pittsburgh that Delany became exposed to the efforts of Africans
in America who were organizing against the chattel slave system. These
men were called abolitionists. Delany began attending meetings that
focused on the abolition of slavery. These meetings and contacts with
other African in American leaders inspired Delany to continue his
self-education on the history of our race. He became an avid reader of
world history and philosophy eventually emerging as one of the most
important African in American thinkers and orators.
in America knew Delany for his opposition to the chattel slave system
and for his call for Africans in America to voluntarily return to
Africa and establish a nation. He was a tenacious fighter for African
in American collective action and self-help throughout his
participation in the movement.
life of Dr. Martin R. Delany should be required study for all African
in American youth. For example, how many Africans in America are aware
that Delany was among the small group of African in American medical
students that attended Harvard Medical School in 1850 and 1851?
Although white supremacy and racism forced Delany to withdraw (the
white medical students strongly objected to a black man graduating with
them feeling this would lessen their degree), he went on to distinguish
himself as an outstanding physician specializing in chronic diseases
affecting women and children.
Delany was a prolific writer. He wrote the third novel produced in this country by an African in America titled, Blake and the Huts of America. Additionally, he published an account of his trip to Africa to locate emigration sites, the official Report of the Niger Valley Exploring Party. Delany’s final work, was titled, Principia of Ethnology: The Origin of Races and Color with an Archaeological Compendium of Ethiopian and Egyptian Civilization. It
was in this work that Delany revealed that the ancient Egyptians and
Ethiopians were Black, and the creators of the world’s first
civilizations, contrary to the European conception of Egypt and
Ethiopia (a concept they still cling to today despite all of the
evidence to the contrary).
The words that Delany wrote in 1852 have not changed and are still relevant and reflective of our condition today. In Condition and Elevation, Delany stated, “White men are producers—
we are consumers. They build houses, and we rent them. They raise
produce, and we consume it. They manufacture clothes and wares, and we
garnish ourselves with them. They build coaches, vessels, cars, hotels,
saloons, and other vehicles and places of accommodation, and we
deliberately wait until they have got them in readiness, then walk in,
and contend with as much assurance for a “right” as though the whole
thing was bought by, paid for, and belonged to us.”
finally, Delany said in this great work, referring to the Europeans,
“By their literary attainments, they are the contributors to, authors
and teachers of, literature, science, religion, law, medicine, and all
other useful attainments that the world makes use of. We have no
reference to ancient times— we speak of modern things.”
of what Delany wrote and lectured about in the nineteenth-century
concerning the condition of African in American people is still true
today. Our challenge is to continue his legacy by breaking the mental
chains of slavery that keep us dependent on others for our history and
the interpretation of world events. Read the works of Dr. Martin R.
Delany and you will find much wisdom.