Mike Stout Celebrates the Legacy of Martin Delany
Sep 23, 2008
One of Pittsburghs unsung heroes discussed in The Point of Pittsburgh is abolitionist Martin Delany a national leader who fought for the end of slavery and equal rights throughout his life as a physician, speaker, author, soldier, and judge.
Martin Delany Renaissance Man
Martin Delany (1812 1885), a man of many important accomplishments, was the renaissance man of early Pittsburgh. He was a national African American abolitionist leader, author, newspaper publisher, doctor, school principal, judge, explorer, the first advocate of Black Nationalism, the first black American novelist, and the first black officer in the U.S. Army. Born a free man in Charles Town Virginia, he learned to read and write in violation of Virginia law making it illegal to teach blacks. Fleeing persecution for learning to read in Virginia, the Delany family fled to Chambersburg Pennsylvania in 1822. At the age of 19 in 1831 Martin traveled on foot to Pittsburgh to become a barber and laborer. In Pittsburgh attended Jefferson College where he studied the classics. Martin began his medical education in 1833 under several doctors and established his own practice n 1836.
In 1843 Delany founded the first Black newspaper west of the Alleghenies, The Mystery, whose masthead declared: Hereditary bondsmen! Know yet not who would be free, themselves must strike the first blow! The paper stories, which publicized grievances of blacks and championed womens rights, were often reprinted in the white press. Fredrick Douglas come to Pittsburgh on an anti-slavery tour in 1847 and met Delany. Together they co-founded the weekly national abolitionist paper The North Star. Delany toured the country through 1849 reporting and lecturing on the abolitionist movement often confronting hostile mobs,
The passage of the 1850 Fugitive Slaw Law on September, which required authorities in the free states to return runaway slaves, drove many Pittsburghers to acts of resistance. A massive protest meeting was held in the Allegheny City market-house on September 30th, 1850. Delany spoke to the crowd and declared his intention to resist the Fugitive Slave Law: My house is my castle; in that castle are none but my wife and children, as free as the angles of heavens, whose liberty is as sacred as the pillars of God. If any man approaches that house in search of a slaveand I do not lay him a lifeless corpse at my feet, I hope the grave may refuse my body a resting place and righteous Heaven my spirit a home. On No! He cannot enter my house and we both live.
With recommendation letters from 17 doctors, Delany was admitted to Harvard University to study medicine in the fall of 1850. In response to the hostile protests of white students against the admission of black students, Delany and two other black students were forced out of Harvard.
Returning to Pittsburgh in 1851, Martin published a treatise that earned him the title of father of Black nationalism. The discrimination at Harvard persuaded Delany that the white ruling class would not allow deserving black to become leaders. In response to the discrimination he experienced Delany wrote his first book, The Condition, Elevation, Emigration, and Destiny of the Colored People of the United States, Politically Considered, which was a declaration of racial price and a call for blacks immigrate to Africa to found a new nation. With his second book he became the first black American to publish a novel: Blake: Or the Huts of America The noved was serialized in the Weekly Anglo African Magazine and was based on his travels in 1839 down the MMississippi to Louisiana and Texas, seeking a haven for freed blacks. Disillusion by the oppressive conditions in the United States, Delany moved to Canada in 1856 to continue his medical practice.
In 1859 Delany took a nine month journey Liberia to explore the p