The Abolitionist, Physician, and Newspaper Editor, Martin Robison Delany

1 Posted by - October 28, 2022 - BLACK ART & LITERATURE, Black History, BLACK MEN, CIVIL RIGHTS, LATEST POSTS


Martin Robison Delany was one of the most influential and successful anti-slavery activists of the 19th century.

Martin Robison Delany, born on 6th May, 6, 1812, in Charles Town, Virginia, was an African-American abolitionist, physician, and editor in the pre-Civil War period. His espousal of the Black Nationalism and racial pride of the time led to anticipations and expressions of such different critical views later in the century.

In search of quality education for their children, the Delanys moved to Pennsylvania when Martin was a child. At the age of 19 years, while studying nights at an African-American church, he worked days in Pittsburgh. Embarking on a course of militant opposition to slavery, Martin became involved in several racial and civil movement groups. Under the guidance of two sympathetic physicians, he achieved competence as a doctor’s assistant, as well as in dental care, working in this capacity in the South and Southwest in 1839.

After returning to Pittsburgh, Martin started a weekly newspaper, the Mystery, which publicized grievances of the African-Americans in the U.S. and also championed for women’s rights. The paper won an excellent reputation, and its articles were often reprinted in the white press. Between 1846 and 1849, Martin Delany worked in partnership with the abolitionist leader, Frederick Douglass, in Rochester, New York. They published another weekly article, the North Star. Martin Delany was the author of The Condition, Elevation, Emigration, and Destiny of the Colored People of the U.S. Politically Considered People (1852).

Three years later, Delany decided to pursue formal medical studies; thereby becoming one of the first black students to be admitted to Harvard Medical School. He then became a leading Pittsburgh physician.

During the 1850s, Robinson developed an overriding interest in foreign colonization opportunities for African-Americans, and in by 1859/60, he led an exploration party to West Africa to investigate the Niger Delta as a prospective location for human settlement.

In protest against oppressive conditions in the U.S., in 1856, Martin moved to Canada where he continued his medical practice. At the beginning of the Civil War (1861–1865), he returned to the U.S. and helped recruit troops for the famous 54th Massachusetts Volunteers, for which he served as a Military Surgeon. Martin Robinson, in February 1865, was made a major, with the aim of countering the desperate Southern scheme and impressing or luring its slaves into the military forces towards the end of the war. As such, Martin Robinson became the first African-American man to receive a regular army commission. He was then assigned to Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, to recruit and organize the former Northern slaves. Finally, when peace was restored in April, 1865, Delany became an official in the Freedmen’s Bureau, serving for the next two years.

In 1874, Martine Delany ran, unsuccessfully, for the post of lieutenant governor, as an Independent Republican in South Carolina. Thereafter, his fortunes declined. Delany died on 24th January, 1885, in Wilberforce, Ohio.

Read more of the story via:


Sterling, Dorothy (1996). The Making of an Afro-American: Martin Robison Delany 1812–1885. Da Capo Press.

Levine, Robert Steven (1997). Martin Delany, Frederick Douglass, and the politics of representative identity. UNC Press Books. p. 314.


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