Martin R. Delaney
Martin Robison Delany (May 6, 1812 – January 24, 1885) was an African-American abolitionist, journalist, physician, soldier and writer, and arguably the first proponent of black nationalism.Delany is credited with the Pan-African slogan of “Africa for Africans.”
Born as a free person of color in Charles Town, Virginia (now in West Virginia) and raised in Chambersburg and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Delaney trained as physician’s assistant. During the cholera epidemics of 1833 and 1854 in Pittsburgh, Delany treated patients although many doctors and residents fled the city out of fear of contamination. In this period, people did not know how the disease was transmitted.
In 1850, Delany was one of the first three black men admitted to Harvard Medical School, but all were dismissed after a few weeks because of widespread protests by white students. Delany had traveled in the South in 1839 to observe slavery firsthand. Beginning in 1847, he worked alongside Frederick Douglass in Rochester, New York to publish the North Star.
Delany dreamed of establishing a settlement in West Africa. He visited Liberia, a United States colony founded by the American Colonization Society, and lived in Canada for several years, but when the American Civil War began, he returned to the United States. Beginning in 1863, he recruited blacks for the United States Colored Troops. Commissioned as a major in February 1865, Delany became the first African-American field grade officer in the United States Army.
After the Civil War, Delany went to the South, settling in South Carolina. There he worked for the Freedmen’s Bureau and became politically active, including in the Colored Conventions Movement. Delany ran unsuccessfully for Lieutenant Governor as a Republican. He was appointed as a Trial Judge, but he was removed following a scandal. Delany later switched his party affiliation. He worked for the campaign of Democrat Wade Hampton III, who won the 1876 election for governor in a season marked by violent suppression of black Republican voters by Red Shirts and fraud in balloting.
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