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Delany, Martin Robison (1812-1885)

Martin Robison Delany was an African American abolitionist, the first African American Field Officer in the U.S Army, and one of the earliest African Americans to encourage a return to Africa.

Delany was born in Charles Town, Virginia (now West Virginia) to a slave father and a free mother.  Delany’s mother took her children to Pennsylvania in 1822 to avoid their enslavement and persecution brought on by attempting to teach her children to read and write, which was illegal in the state at that time. In 1833 Martin Delany began an apprenticeship with a Pittsburgh physician and soon opened a successful medical practice in cupping and leeching (it was not necessary to be certified to practice medicine prior to 1850).  In 1843 he began publishing a newspaper in Pittsburgh called The Mystery, Later Delany joined Frederick Douglass to produce and promote The North Star in Rochester, New York.    

Martin R. Delany entered Harvard Medical School in 1850 to finish his formal medical education (along with two other black students) but was dismissed from the institution after only three weeks as a result of petitions to the school from white students.  Two years later he published The Condition, Elevation, Emigration, and Destiny of the Colored People of the United States, Politically Considered, claiming that even abolitionists would never accept blacks as equals and thus the solution to the black condition lay in the emigration of all African Americans back to Africa.  In 1859 Delany led an emigration commission to West Africa to explore possible sites for a new black nation along the Niger River, “We are a nation within a nation, we must go from our oppressors,” he wrote.  

When the Civil War began in 1861 Delany returned to the United States.  Jettisoning for a time his emigrationist views, Delany recruited thousands of men for the Union Army.  In February 1865, after meeting with President Abraham Lincoln to persuade the administration to create an all-black Corps led by African American officers, Delaney was

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