Home Page

Martin Delany’s Theologico-Political Answer

In 1998, Cornel West struck a challenge to what he deemed a “crisis in contemporary American religion” in his second book, Prophetic Fragments. Noting the rich tradition of religion as a vital component of the black community and a key catalyst for affecting social change, West lamented the widespread accommodation of black, American religion to the political and cultural status quo. Drawing attention to leaders like Walter Rauschenbusch, Martin Luther King Jr., and Malcolm X, West expounded on the actions and messages of these men in fostering a collective struggle and communal response to black oppression. West targeted the passivity of the black community’s modern approach to religion – its susceptibility to being manipulated by those new religious leaders who seek to profit from black complacency whether  for personal empowerment or pecuniary gain. This sad state of black religion effectively enslaves through existential emptiness pertaining to the concerns of this world and political crises of our time.

Yet, West’s critique on black exploitation and social lethargy through religion is not a new one – and his critique overlooked a key figure who championed using religion to fight the status quo in the black community. A century and a half earlier, blacks bound by the chains of the plantation and the forced labor on the cotton fields, held to the faith of their masters for solace in their oppression and patience in their suffering. Enslaved by being susceptible by their white religious leaders, who sought to profit from black complacency for social empowerment and economic profit, this faith-as-usual met opposition within the black abolitionist community. Even when he was a strong advocate for integrationist, moral suasion, the ever passionate Martin Delany publicly challenged the complacent aspects of his people’s “religion”. His perspective pioneered the liberation theology that would take various forms with future advocates of black independence and autonomy in determining the race’s political and cultural destiny.

Yet, studies of Delany’s career often emphasize his “radicalism”,[i] “nationalism”,[ii] and “Pan-Africanism”.[iii] Delany, through his persistent struggle to achieve perfect equality with whites, won the respect and admiration of many of his contemporaries. Delany, especially, is remembered for espousing one of the contending ideologies of the nineteenth-century black civil rights movement: emigration; a cause which spearheaded the movement to return free blacks of “sterling worth” to Africa. Thus, perusing scholarship on Delany makes it apparent that many tend to discuss his political ideas in isolation from the religious foundation upon which they developed.[iv]

But religion clearly shaped Delany’s philosophy of the black endeavor to achieve equality under the law; religion was the legitimizing force that gave Delany’s thought a radically unique nature of much difference from that emphasized and applauded by many critics. This paper highlights not only how religion shaped and defined Delany’s dualistic ideologies of integration and emigration but also how he actively used religion to advance American middle-class values and steer the black struggle along the path of reconciliation with mainstream society. Though many scholars often separate Delany’s years as an integrationist and his years as an emigrationist, his religious proclivities and influence actually show a common pursuit for social justice throughout Delany’s life. The means may have changed corresponding with the context of the times but the end remained: the physical, moral, and spiritual elevation of the oppressed, black race. Finally, while one could discern Delany’s emphasis and advocacy of religion as solely or primarily utilitarian, Delany adamantly purported the exigency for one to hold fast to religion as a bedrock through trials and as a dutiful obligation in an individual’s pursuit for knowledge – a “true” religion of Christianity “founded upon the eternal of God our Creator”.[v]

Martin Delany hailed from a devout Christian home.[vi] His mother placed a strong emphasis on moral values and self-control as self-respect. Starting at a young age, Delany began to curtail his natural appetites for vice by practicing total abstinence; during his life, Delany would avoid tobacco and liquor always. Delany’s religious horizon and commitment broadened in the 1830s in Pittsburgh as he became a member of the African Methodist Episcopal church and the Pittsburgh Bible Society; Delany also became active with the “Sons of Temperance” – even speaking to the group on occasion.[vii] He actively participated in efforts to improve the moral conditions of blacks. Through public lectures and the medium of his short-lived paper, The Pittsburgh Mystery, Delany advanced the cause of reform in Pennsylvania.[viii] If anything, Delany’s moral devoir seems to be of a Stoic nature.[ix] Thus, what some may claim as admonitions of an elitist telling others how to correctly live were truly sincere efforts at constructive criticism to ensure blacks of all caliber devote themselves to living respectable, orderly lifestyles.[x] The need for blacks to transcend the status of appendages and secondary partners of white abolitionists[xi] and to assume leadership and a much more active role in the abolitionist movement inspired the founding of The North Star in 1847. Its founder, Frederick Douglass, sought a medium that would reach out to and educate blacks. He solicited the assistance of Delany, who became an editor and traveling lecturer in an effort to drum up interest for the publication out West.[xii]

Delany assumed two major goals in his pursuits: 1) to reveal and condemn the malevolence of slavery and 2) to enlighten blacks on the most effective way to achieve social elevation. Consequentially, Delany prudently embraced capitalism as a system of empowerment and advocated such in his journeys and writings.[xiii] The fiscal empowerment of blacks would be one of their means to salvation from white oppression. As whites had devoted themselves to attainment of capital and resources to serve as a base for their power, so blacks “must have money if they want to get free”[xiv] – pecuniary gain from economic dealings would demonstrate the ability of blacks to be just as successful (or even more successful) as whites. A healthy capitalist education would equip blacks with the business acumen necessary for economic elevation.[xv] Delany’s lectures focused on showing blacks how to enhance their temporal condition through industry and wealth-accumulation. Economic prosperity constituted, Delany averred, the “self-evident truth” that would induce positive changes.

Delany’s strategy directly related to his subscription to the prevailing abolitionist and middle-class ideology conceived as moral suasion during the 1830s and 1840s. Moral suasionists rejected violence in favor of progress through an indirect appeal to moral conscience and reason believing that an advancement in the moral and material conditions of blacks would negate the pro-slavery contention of black inferiority. Upon the weakening of the roots of slavery and racism, the white population would undeniably have to perceive the irrationality of the status quo and respond positively to the outcry for change. Correspondingly, Delany was an adherent to other mainstream ideals and tenets of the mid-nineteenth-century thought: Romanticism,[xvi] (religious) Enlightenment,[xvii] and Protestantism.[xviii] Delany posited a strong faith in the potency of industry, in the capacity of human beings to affect positive change through man’s susceptibility rational conviction.

Underlying his approval of industry and hard work, religion not only served as an abstract set of ideals giving life to Delany’s thought and writings. Delany recognized the practical relevance of religion in the lives of blacks and so focused early on in connecting his message with fellowmen through their preferred religious institutions. Delany embarked on his lecture tour of northern free black communities early in 1847. Throughout his journeys, Delany sought the support and assistance of the revered institution to which numerous blacks relied upon for sustenance and guidance: the black church. Church endorsement would help Delany legitimize his theme of moral suasion.[xix] To Delany’s discouragement, however, the response of several black churches to his message of moral suasion was not hospitable and even hostile at times.

Examples included several of Delany’s requests for permission to use church facilities for anti-slavery/moral suasion lectures and meetings being rejected.[xx] Blacks in Pittsburgh and Alleghany showed very little interest and support for the anti-slavery cause; this was primarily a result of resistance coming from the senior, church leaders. Much to the surprise of modern readers, the black church’s opposition to Delany’s anti-slavery message influenced black congregations so much that some blacks even expressed a preference to remain slaves instead of accepting the concept of moral suasion. Why? The religion of these moral suasion detractors was an opiate of the oppressed masses. Many of these churches preached that moral suasion would jeopardize one’s prospects for heaven. The few notable exceptions[xxi] would willingly have opened their church doors but for the opposition of the “leading Christians of their churches”, who accused them of “concerning themselves too much with the things of this world”.[xxii]

In Ohio, two popular black churches lashed out at Delany. Condemning Delany’s beliefs and his desire to appeal to blacks through the pulpit as “infidelity”, Delany would write to Douglass that, “it was enough for them to know that I was a moral suasion abolitionist to ensure opposition.” In Cincinnati, an anti-slavery pastor, Reverend Boyinston, warmly welcomed Delany to address his congregation. Delany’s impassioned attack on slavery and his message of black empowerment through industrial and material gains generated enough interest for Delany to deliver additional speeches. Yet, such prospects were dashed when the black elders of the church would not permit more lectures by Delany as his anti-slavery stance was “too liberal.”[xxiii] In light of this rejection and opposition, as much as Delany saw moral suasion’s potential acceptance in black churches, he also did not hesitate to self-righteously condemn churches that ridiculed him and shunned his anti-slavery cause.[xxiv]

Why would blacks be so resistant to a viewpoint of anti-slavery and socio-economic elevation? Many black churches preached that enduring harm and injustice on earth by relying on God’s provision and providence ensured the promise for the Kingdom to come after death. Such a mentality rejected then any form of active resistance to oppression – patience became an eternally rewarding virtue[xxv]; to “look to de Laud” served as the only avenue for resistance.[xxvi] Rejecting the materialistic thrust of the moral suasion, churches saw Delany’s sermons as encouraging the active pursuit of wealth-accumulation as a threat to God’s will. Delany viewed this resistance as a lack of blacks to “think for [themselves]” for the “white theologian…induce[s] colored people to depend upon [only] faith and prayer.”[xxvii] The scriptural interpretations of the slavocrats had permeated through the black church. Through suffering (even unjustly), one must “stand still and see the salvation of God” always “seek[ing] first the Kingdom of God [for] all else will follow”[xxviii] as God will provide for your situation – so rely on Him to “give us this day our daily bread.”[xxix]

Consequentially, Delany set forward making the relationship between religion and freedom the common theme of his lectures. He criticized the slave-holders for fashioning a pro-slavery Christianity. Though helpful to the slave elites, this clinging to empyrean hope – this detachment of the present world and its conditions and conflicts – Delany insisted, was detrimental to the black struggle for freedom. Led by ignorant and gullible pastors/elders, many black churches, Delany argued, adapted certain “egregious errors” (that is, the divine injunctions) from the slaveholders, and consequently imposed upon their congregations a complacent and fatalistic disposition vis-a-vis earthly problems – a posture that further enhanced white dominance. To survive and develop, blacks should embrace their time on the earth and even pursue materialistic gain. Misinformed that capitalism was evil, and that it unnecessarily and dangerously interfered with their “prospect for heaven”, blacks, according to Delany, surrendered their fate to a false religion, satisfied with subordinate roles in society. Providential determinism was a “great mistake” resulting from a “misconception of the character and ways of the Deity”.[xxx] Delany deplored the “susceptibility” of blacks to a pro-slavery religion that had dangerously stymied their capacity for self-determination.[xxxi]

Furthermore, Delany saw the present – “now is the accepted, today is the day of salvation”[xxxii] – as necessary of every good black, Christian’s focus: “man’s mission is an earthly one, and God intended that we should take an equal part in the discharge of its various duties.”[xxxiii] The mission Delany referred to comes directly from his convictions as a Christian and a Mason. Man, being made in the image of God, must recognize “the importance of his own being” in having a “proper sense of duty to his Creator.”[xxxiv] Thus, “founded upon the similitude and consequent responsibility to his Creator”, all must devote themselves to a “doctrine of a rectitude of conduct and purpose of heart” – a devotion to moral propriety and hard work. This devotion, universally applied, creates a community committed to simple tenets of self-empowerment and elevation. Such elevation stems from not the soul but “the mind”, which, when properly educated and focused, “flies to the wide-spread expanse of eternal space.”[xxxv] The reliance on “the mind” does not demean Christianity and the sustenance of the soul. The mindful conscious “that [God] has endowed me with faculties to comprehend” the works of nature – “the wisdom and goodness of God” – actually strengthens the soul’s duty to pleasing a wonderful Creator.[xxxvi]

Correspondingly, a honing of the mind’s faculty through education would be worthless unless it inspired action and found application with temporal and (yes) materialistic pursuits.[xxxvii] Such secular gains here on earth allow for the proper elevation of man, as the image of God, to be successful; and, in turn, such secular gains here on earth allow for the further elevation of society and future generations. A passive, inactive Christianity was a bastardization of its purest form, which would lead to society’s betterment.[xxxviii] Just as Delany implored, The Bible set forth that material, secular gains provided the means for Christians to attest to their moral commitments by helping their fellowman.[xxxix] The duty to moral propriety, if a people dedicate themselves to their Christian duty, will surely result in “the most advanced civilization…propagated in its purity…effective law and government.”[xl] When any form of oppression or hindrance exists that limit or prohibit the ability of any person or people to apply their God-blessed faculties to their fullest, then that form of oppression and hindrance maligns that which God created and so denigrates the divinity of God. Delany points out that this very injustice has occurred with the oppressed, black race in America. So, an informed knowledge of the nature and purposes of God was, therefore, fundamental to the attainment of meaningful freedom and elevation. Delany, correspondingly, assumed the responsibility of enlightening blacks on the real God in his lectures and writings.

As is evident now, “to depend for assistance upon God is a duty and right; but to know when, how, and in what manner to obtain it”[xli] encompassed Delany’s alternative to the pseudo-heavenly focus of his black fellowman indoctrinated by their white oppressors. So Delany advanced a secular conception of black problems; he insisted that the social elevation of blacks was a function of the secular domain.[xlii] Paradoxically, Delany’s secularism endorsed providentialism as its justification; Delany identified three divine laws that address all human actions, pursuits, and problems[xliii]: the physical, the moral, and the spiritual. Though all equally important, each applied to their own relevant, fixed, and distinct sphere. Noteworthy, physical and moral laws, whose basic components included industry, moral propriety, and materialism (i.e. the aspects of moral suasion), are grouped together by Delany as they relate to man’s temporal context – i.e. slavery and racism for Delany’s fellow blacks in America. By tracing all three laws to one divine origin, Delany showed that spiritualism and secularism did not have to be separated – they are not antagonistic. These three laws – the means of God – are “immutable” and “unchangeable”…and, just like God, “perfect”.

Delany adduced two justifications for the compatibility of religion and materialism: 1) God created the earth its natural resources for the benefits of man; 2) to fulfill man’s duty to help his fellowman through the material gains. Delany further upheld the condition and life-style of whites as evidence of God’s approbation of materialism.[xliv] The black race must “become a business, money-making people.”[xlv] Delany justified his point by reworking the meaning of Matthew 4:4[xlvi] – if a man lacked bread (material existence) in the first place, how could he even recognize the spiritual nourishment that he is missing?  Not holding to merely spiritual commitments, whites had consolidated their dominance through wealth-accumulation;[xlvii] blacks, “with all their religion, moral honesty, and goodness of heart”, had ignorantly confined themselves to a false Christianity that had enslaved their race to a state of poverty. If God had deemed materialism unrighteous, Delany deduced that the fate of whites – considering the race’s evil exploitation of slavery while maintaining an irreligious lifestyle – would have not been met with such accomplishment and success.[xlviii] The professed religion of blacks with all of its commitments and devout prayers should have positioned the race to be blessed immensely by God if their actions were correct. Devout blacks should hold the positions of powers if this was the case.[xlix] God had trusted humanity (irrespective of religious disposition)[l] with a divine responsibility to exploit and appropriate the resources of the world. [li] Therefore, a significant part of the development/elevation of an individual or of society to a level appropriate to their faculties and the opportunity God had created for them depended on the degree of accumulation.

For the oppressed society of blacks in America to ever have the ability to abide by the three laws, the race must first have achieved autonomy in their learning and thinking – free from the pollution of dependency that the whites had taught them. Following autonomous thinking came the importance of inspiring people to their various pursuits and application of their faculties – the most pervasive inspiration of individuals and groups (nations) being a desire for “higher incentives” i.e. ambition. This drive based on ambition constituted an independence of mind, self-respect, courage, and self-reliance…what Tommie Shelby deems as Delany’s “vigor”.[lii] A group, therefore, progresses in their achievements in proportion to the level of the ambition of its members. Delany applied this “higher incentive” principle to the physical-material differences between blacks and whites regardless of religious proclivities. The ability for whites to have exclusivity over material pursuits ensured their economic and political dominance over blacks, whose propensity for “higher incentive” is circumscribed by providential determinism. The abject state of oppressed blacks in America was obviously not just from a religious suppression of true Christianity from the blacks but “the inhuman despotism of the demon master, toward the slave, was a temporal and physical act, and required temporal and physical means to prevent it…Physical ends, we honestly and sincerely assure you, brethren, can only be successfully attained by physical means.”[liii] To redress this imbalance, Delany impressed on blacks the absolute and universal character of his law of equal attainments – “there is no equality of person where there is not an equality of attainment.” So, to justify claims of equality with whites, blacks must perforce embrace capitalism.[liv]

As we have seen so far, Delany underlined a certain duality to Christianity that the providential posture of several blacks churches had blurred: spiritualism and secularism. Delany urged a (“radical”) reconciliation rather than a divorce of the two. Black economic elevation and integration into mainstream society was inconceivable without a balancing of these two forces. Blinded and misled by pro-slavery misrepresentation of Christianity, blacks had accorded priority to one (spiritualism) at the expense of the other (secularism). Delany presumed the false perception of black inferiority due to the prioritization of spiritualism and its wrongful application as antidote to fundamentally secular problems. Correspondingly, Delany admonished black churches to abandon a mono-functional posture and to assume both spiritual and temporal responsibilities: “the well-being of man, while upon earth is to God of as much importance as his welfare in heaven.”[lv] Furthermore, Delany viewed the kingdom of God as realizable only when Christians advance social justice. Consequentially, it is Christianity and social justice that are presented as inseparable.

Delany’s approach to religion directly related to that “ambition” for “higher incentives” as it is the driving force behind it. Such ambition is the antithesis of “the slaveholding and pro-slavery high priests of infamy”[lvi] providing an active response to their Gospel of passivity and misery. Moreover, Delany attested to such ambition in his only fiction work, Blake or the Huts of America; the book served as a counter to Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin presenting the reader with an impassioned, intelligent insurgent of a black protagonist who, upon discovering his wife has been sold, flees his plantation, travels the South establishing a foundation for future insurrection, witnesses the horrors of the Middle Passage, and finishes in Cuba where Henry Blake – the hero –  organizes the oppressed, black population for militant resistance. We encounter many characters in Delany’s novel who commit the “egregious error” of “stand[ing] still and see[ing] the salvation”. When Henry’s master sells his wife, Maggie, the only advise and consolation Henry receives from his fellow slaves and family is to “Look to de Laud” as the concerned parties slavishly “fall upon their knees invoking aloud the God of the oppressed”.[lvii] Delany, who had personally visited the slave belt and witnessed firsthand, as a freedman, the atrocities of slavery, presented an almost sickening picture of how the white oppressors had manipulated the superstitious inclinations and spiritual nature of blacks. As they dutifully performed their slave duties, the oppressed watched with glee and happiness as their masters and family ventured to church to worship the same God they purport as supreme “without for a moment dreaming that they had a right to worship the same God.”[lviii] When the character Old Daddy Joe had dropped to his knees in a time of peril, a slave patrol interrupts his praying and sent the “old nigger” on his way discussing afterward how Joe is a “devilish, good, religious old Negro” in his religious ways[lix] – devilish in perpetuating white power over any hope for autonomous thinking and religious ascertainment of enslaved blacks. However, Henry Blake recognizes the futility of this religion of the oppressors from the start of the book. The physical, moral, and spiritual aspects of a reclaimed and re-signified religion all come to Blake’s mind. What the significance of this passive religion to Blake when his “wife is sold away from me by a man who is one of the leading members of the very church to which both she and I belong”?

That said, just shunning this passive, religion of the oppressors, is not enough: “If I could only get rid of [my oppressor’s] inflictions as easily as I can his religion, I would be this day a free man.”[lx] Blake needs religion to assist him in overcoming these inflictions; he lost his “faith in the religion of [his] oppressors” – not his faith in a Christ who provides deliverance to all of humanity. With other characters and at other times in the novel, prayer repeatedly appears as “self-sufficient for all things” though Delany notes – as we recognize his emphasis on the spiritual, physical, and moral matters – that “never was there a grosser or more palpable absurdity.”[lxi] But again, in no way is Delany implying the exigency to disavow Christianity; instead, it is an ignorant “Providence” that must be shunned so that oppressed blacks can “do that for us which God has given us the ability and means to do for ourselves.”[lxii] To achieve this, Blake leads an effort to re-signify the religion of the oppressed in order to empower his fellowman to resistive action and communal accord. Just as whites “use the Scriptures to make [blacks] submit, by preaching to you…we must now begin to understand the Bible so as to make it of interest to us.”[lxiii] Prayer serves an even more important role in Delany’s approach to religion as it gives life and confidence to that “vigor” to act; before embarking on his dangerous travels across the South, Blake (with two of his fellow slaves) deem it best to “have a word of prayer first…to give them knowledge and courage in the undertaking and success in their effort.”[lxiv] The action has already been set forth; the time is now – no more waiting. So the oppressed “must make [their] religion subserve [their] interests” – general insurrection for the attainment of freedom; as a result, acts like stealing (‘borrowing’ from masters like Jews “borrowed” from Egyptians), lying to white oppressors, and overseeing the groundwork for violent insurrection all find religious justification in order to strike with “vigor” without a failure.”[lxv]

Most notably, the adherence to this practical and culturally relevant Christianity formed the basis of the insurrectionary body politic – it had the ability to unite out of oppression. In Blake, though the entire second half focuses on the organized, militant rebellion in Cuba, the actual revolt never comes to fruition in the book. Then again, it is the potential for communal action that is the leitmotif in Blake and at the core of that communal action is a religion that unites the oppressed masses. The social dimension of the freedom predominant in this black theology does not primarily concern political struggle but rather cultural solidarity. Black Christianity is not merely a reaction to white exclusion; rather, it is a distinct culture that revels in its own uniqueness. Communal interaction surrounding religious faith has a shared, experiential suffering. An undeniable union is the result. Personal dependence on God facilitates a communal fellowship. Such religious belief is requisite for the oppressed’s survival and potential social uplift with communal accord. The leaders of the rebellion in Cuba, who came from various religious backgrounds, decided to commit their cause to a religion “that [will] bring us liberty”, which is of “no sects, no denomination, and [of] but one”[lxvi] spiritual institution of “faith in a common Savior”[lxvii] for all regardless of intellectual acumen or socio-economic standing. The very whisper by whites whites at a the likelihood an unique culture and religious independence by blacks exists actually creates the most resounding threat to white supremacy. Thus, Delany’s liberation theology manipulates the interdependency of the oppressed and oppressor through a united black community defining a clear, active, and organized opposition to the very institution that bears affliction down on blacks – slavery. The white oppressor, consequentially and ironically, suffers a “sleeping wake or waking sleep, a living death or tormented life” because they live in constant fear as a result of such unified opposition…even if not enacted in wide-scale, violent insurrection.[lxviii] “God is just, and his justice will not sleep forever.”

Does this mean that Delany presents the oppressed with a re-signified religion that carries prime significance in its utility? In its potential for social justice? Delany counterpoised a contextual Weltanschauung that defined Christianity as a secular and utilitarian religion. His projection of Christianity as a libertarian and utilitarian religion undermined the spirit of providentialism. So it appeared that such a formation of religion – where a group’s leaders delineate on the proper tenets that would provide for a unified society (as in Blake) – has more similarity to the workings of an ideal state such as the ones Plato, or Hobbes, or Spinoza championed. Take Spinoza’s writings in Chapter 14 of the Tractatus Theologico-Politicus. Here, Spinoza set forth a “universal faith” based upon The Bible. The religion required  belief in the existence of an unique, omniscient God, who forgives repentant sinners. It also required the worship of God, but this “consists solely in justice and charity, or love towards one’s neighbor”. Finally, Spinoza maintained that if a person who believes that God forgives sins, he would become more inspired by God – “knows Christ according to the spirit, and Christ is in him.” The universality, the need for penance, a socially focused justice…all echo Delany’s thought to an extent. Another political thinker who recommended a universal religion for its utilitarian value was Machiavelli. Machiavelli esteemed the necessity to act – evident in the ancient histories, like Livy’s – as the true source for ancient virtue (i.e. justice or salvation). Taking into consideration the present institutions of the state and their effects on man’s actions, Machiavelli discerned the religion of his day as actually hindering the restoration of ancient virtue. Similar to Delany’s anti-clerical implications, Machiavelli condemned the Church for having made man “effeminate” – not demonstrating a “vigor” or ambition; even heaven itself was “disarmed”[lxix]. Machiavelli manifested himself henceforth as a “Florentine Martin Luther” partial to rekindling his view of Original (“purest”) Christianity. Ancient virtue became demonstrated in the glorious undertakings of men (“heroes”) by establishing and restoring republics and religious sects[lxx]. Machiavelli hailed the political utility of religion – not its innate truth – as providing the foundation for the perpetual republic’s good fortune with the finest example being Rome’s religious institutions providing for good fortune.[lxxi]

Delany, however, just as he conjoined the material/physical concerns and pursuits of the present with the spiritual proclivities of the eternal, desired to connect propensity for collective action through religion as well as personal console and spiritual guidance. In Blake, for example, prayer actually becomes more prevalent and more impassioned during the second part of the book when the rebel leaders have joined together in religious solidarity. Often the group (led by the articulate and talented Placido) boldly speak forth hymns and spirituals to lift their hearts in a time of great tribulation. That said, Delany mentions how the group members would, even during the same meetings where they sang spirituals, come together and pray in silence; this would allow each person to introspect and apply spiritual support to their physical undertakings and moral commitments. The shift in mannerism of praying becomes apparent early in the novel. The melodramatic outcries of the slaves who had fallen victim to their oppressor’s religion – those that sought public sympathy from their masters for their lamentations of passivity – carry striking semblance to the very mannerisms (public, loud, rambling, and repetitive prayers) that Christ had condemned while on earth.[lxxii] Compare such conduct to that of Blake with others as they would offer “solemn and affecting prayer in whispers to the Most High” in “silent communion” with one another.”[lxxiii] So prayer maintained an important – if not more important – significance in supporting a religion not influenced by that of the white oppressors but one respectful of the three laws of nature.

As much as spiritual invigoration became necessary for one’s personal relationship with God when being a part of a collective, Delany emphasized a personal relationship between a Higher Power and man – especially when away from the mark of society and civilization. In Blake, upon fleeing the plantation but before courageously journeying through the slave belt on his mission of liberation and social empowerment, Henry took time “at Large” to “renew his faith, confirm his hope, and perfect him[self] in love.”[lxxiv] Like Elijah, Moses, and Christ, the prophetic messenger of hope to his people – Blake – sought spiritual serenity for the upcoming noble undertaking. In the Mount of Olives, Jesus fell to his knees and wept hours before his crucifixion;[lxxv] in the wilderness of Egypt, Moses bowed in the presence of a bush before his travels back to the capitol to “let [his] people go”.[lxxvi] By humbly accepting a “dependence upon Divine aid” for “strength” and “courage”, Blake became confident in his mission and determined in his “vigor”; “ambition” would lead to his advancement of the physical and moral elevation of his fellowmen. On an interesting aside, John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress may have found its way into Delany’s hands at some point as this “at Large” scene with Blake greatly resembles that of Bunyan’s protagonist, Christian, at the beginning of his allegory of salvation. In Bunyan’s story, Christian, who has suffered from a burden (the knowledge of his sin that came from reading The Bible), must first and foremost seek Divine aid for his onus before he embarks on his voyage to the Celestial City. Christian soon arrived at the “place of deliverance” alone where he humbled himself before the cross of Calvary and the open sepulcher of Christ; the burden broke off Christian’s back rolling into the open sepulcher. Like so, after Blake confessed his need to rely on God for inspiration and encouragement in his ambitious undertaking, “springing to his feet”, it was “as if a weight had fallen from him. Blake stood up a new man.” Therefore, Delany recognized that personal faith and Divine invocation were necessary sine qua non for an individual to comprehend his duty to himself and his fellowman – a duty that would entail the propagation of physical, moral, and spiritual empowerment through divinely sanctioned ambition.

During his Western Tour for the North Star, Delany wrote to Douglass how his travels in the Alleghany Mountains stirred his soul “in the magnitude of its nature” – the beauty of the Creator; at the same time, this desire to “contemplate the works of nature around me” does more than just comfort and inspires Delany’s soul and his faith in a Higher Power. In just a few paragraphs, Delany connected the oppressed black’s plight in America as an aberration of God’s beauty in creation; Delany’s recognition of the “conscious that [God] has endowed him with faculties” led ultimately to proclaiming the due judgment that would befall a guilty nation.[lxxvii] The physical and mental faculties correspond with spiritual revelations. Spiritual solace in solitude also entails motivation to take action with vigor on behalf of one’s cause. In Blake – not coincidentally – the hero alludes to the possibility that he may have to “take to the mountains and there in the dreary seclusion of wilderness, though alone, will I stand firmly in defense of our cause.”[lxxviii] Blake then proceeded to implore his fellowmen to “buckle on your armor then, and stand ready for the fight.” We again see the continual spiritual strength an individual could ascertain in the solitude of nature – a strength that enables him to keep hope and contribute to the mission towards equality of opportunity (physically, mentally, and spiritually) for blacks. Related to this point, Blake’s professed peace in nature’s solitude and his injunction for all to don their “armor” also suggests that just spiritual solidarity founded upon that universal religion would hold together the movement for social justice (e.g. slave rebellion in Cuba). For, as Delany knew the Scriptures and purported his religion to be the “purest”, the  “struggle” of an oppressed and spiritually beset people “is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the pokers of this dark world.”[lxxix]

As the 1840s drew to an end, the campaign for moral suasion as the key to black abolition was becoming more and more a failure. Black efforts at self-improvement paradoxically reinforced rather than mitigated white resentments. The passage of the Fugitive Slave Law in 1850 along with the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 and the Dred Scott Decision of 1857 nailed the final hole in the coffin that encased the dying cause of moral suasion. Many black Americans perceived the Fugitive Slave Law as a threat to the freedom of all blacks regardless of status. Perhaps the most critical implication of the law was the federal government’s support of strengthening slavery. Blacks like Delany condemned these laws as tantamount to legalizing a national institution of slavery reigning terror on both “free” and enslaved black. The law shattered, in effect, the integrationist dream and steps towards progress that had been made. Delany was among the most disillusioned as a consequence. De Tocqueville’s racial pessimism seemed more relevant than than ever before.[lxxx] Delany witnessed the horror of the law in effect at a U.S. Circuit Court trial of the Crosswaits after which he came to the conclusion that the government had, in effect, “legalized kidnapping”.[lxxxi] This perverse law of man clearly limited the three natural laws of God discussed above carried no worth if any freedman could unjustly be declared enslaved property at any moment – his invested capital all stripped then too. Delany’s hope of achieving liberty for himself and his fellow blacks in America seemed doomed for “a people capable of originating and sustaining such a law as this, are not the people to whom we are willing to entrust our liberty at discretion.” Thus, Delany launched the emigrationist movement with the publication of The Condition in 1852. The book is a massive testimony to the industrial and commercial capacities of blacks and their contributions to the development of America – a very strong plea for black citizenship and respectful integration. While stressing black entitlement to all the rights and privileges of American citizenship, Delany underscored the hopelessness of the situation. All indications, Delany thought, seemed to suggest the further strengthening and intensification of slavery and racism. The only avenue of escape for blacks was emigration, and the development of a black nation whose accomplishments (economic, social, and political) would destroy slavery and racism both in the United States and internationally.[lxxxii]

Delany’s ideas drew a storm of protest from blacks.[lxxxiii] Emigration was attacked in several black state conventions. Many equated this new push for emigration as tantamount to the forced repatriation scheme of the pro-slavery American Colonization Society.[lxxxiv] Leading blacks strongly rejected emigration.[lxxxv] Many blacks also emphasized that the ramifications of emigration was nothing more than the abandonment of the slaves and would also strengthen the institution of slavery: “we could wish that, for his own credit, and that of the colored people, it had never been published.”[lxxxvi] A state council of the colored citizens of Massachusetts expressed the feelings of other blacks when it equated emigration with colonization and voiced “a strong and unqualified condemnation” of both movements.[lxxxvii]

Though The Condition formally launched the emigrationist debate and movement, emigration as a strategy had long been a component of black liberation thought.[lxxxviii] The emergence of the pro-slavery colonization movement in 1816 and 1817 paradoxically undermined emigration, since blacks conceived the two as corresponding symptoms. Delany was well aware of this negative perception of emigration long before he published his book…an awareness that undoubtedly influenced his treatment of the subject. And so, the importance of religion to Delany’s thought remained; religion would be the (popular) medium through which he would propagate his message of liberation through emigration.

Delany, consequentially, established his own historicity and story of emigration. His purpose was not an aberration of the anti-slavery movement; emigration was the natural and divinely sanctioned reaction of all oppressed people. To prove its divine character, Delany referred to two biblical migrations – the movement of Dido and her followers from Tyre to Mauritania as well as the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt. He then reminded blacks of a more recent migration of another religious group, the Puritans, who left the old for the New World.[lxxxix] Emigration was, therefore, historical, legitimate, and divine. Delany underlined the link between capitalism and religion; he demonstrated how emigration – as divinely sanctioned – would advance the capitalist goal of the black middle class. The ultimate end of emigration was the creation of a strong, black, capitalist state.[xc] Opposition to emigration in light of the political circumstances therefore ran contraire to Christianity.

To assist him in advocating divinely sanctioned emigration, Delany declared that Christ as Savior was not simply understood as an agent of deliverance but also a human exemplar of pain and agony; thus, the black race in America shared a common bond with Christ through its joint suffering and oppression. For example, it was an African, “a man of Cyrene…who would become…the first bearer of the cross of Jesus Christ.” Another example came from the Queen of Ethiopia seeking out Christian enlightenment and becoming “the first delegate ever sent to receive the Christian religion for a nation. The nation was black.” Delany, thus,  provided an unique historiography of the black/African’s race’s connection to Christ’s crucifixion as well as other Biblical associations.[xci] With the prophetic destiny of the black race now evident to the reader – in light of the race’s prior moral and religious advancement – no excuse then, according to Delany, could be used for the disavowal of the emigrationist perspective for self- and social elevation. To further buttress his emigrationist thought, Delany declared that God had Himself carefully selected and set aside Central and South American as well as the West Indies as a place of refuge for freedom-seeking emigrants.[xcii] He represented the conducive sub-tropical climate, the rich natural resources, and the preponderance of people of color (constituting the ruling element)[xciii] as divinely conditioned factors that made these parts of the world ideal for the resettlement of free blacks. In a picturesque depiction of divine approval, Delany declared, “Heaven’s pathway stands unobstructed, which will lead us into a paradise of bliss. Let us go on and possess this land and the God of Israel will be our God.”[xciv][xcv][xcvi]

To strengthen the emigrationist appeal, Delany presented a messianic/missionary message.[xcvii] Emigration would enable blacks concomitantly to advance themselves politically, socially, economically and execute a divine function. It was the first step in the fulfillment of a divine promise that “a prince (that is, power) shall come out of Egypt (from among the African race) and Ethiopia stretch forth (from all parts of the world) her hands unto God.”[xcviii] The movement of free blacks out of the United States was, therefore, a prelude to the redemption of mankind. Refusal to execute this diving responsibility would result in God withdrawing his “divine care and protection” and dispossessing free blacks of whatever little they had.[xcix] What many (especially in the 1960s) purport to be Delany’s strong advocacy of Pan-Africanism[c] or black exceptionalism (e.g. Egyptians as founders of civilization and Ethiopia promise) were all associated with Delany’s connecting of emigration with Christianity – it could even be possible that Delany put these views forward because of their religious associations and accessibility.

Emigration, however, would remain a minority movement. The majority of blacks endorsed a cultural pluralistic approach to promoting integration. Perhaps the most vicious attack against emigration and, more significantly, against Delany, occurred at a state convention of black citizens of Illinois. Delegates accused Delany of advocating “a spirit of disunion which, if encouraged, will prove fatal to our hopes and aspirations as a people.” Undaunted, Delany reaffirmed his convictions and summoned his followers to a National Emigration Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, in August 1854.[ci] He made a lengthy presentation justifying emigration. Again, he strongly appealed to religion, depicting emigration as indispensible to the redemption and “effective elevation” of blacks[cii] and to the “pursuit of our legitimate claims to inherent rights, bequeathed to us by the will of heaven – the endowment of God, our common parent.”[ciii] To assist him in advocating divinely sanctioned emigration, Delany duly noted that Christ as Savior was not simply understood as an agent of deilverance but also a human exemplar of pain and agony – connecting with the suffering and oppression.

Yet, Delany’s religious-emigration viewpoints met some positive acceptance. In Cleveland, conference delegates set forth a cause-effect relationship between oppression and emigration…the former often inducing the latter. An oppressed minority must perforce emigrate as a prelude to “entering upon a higher spiritual life and development.” Emigration assumed a purifying and redeeming function. One delegate referred to the biblical experience of the “ancient people of God” (the Israelites) who, “after being ground down to dust under the despotism of Egypt, received their new birth by removal” as proof of the divine and redeeming qualities of emigration.[civ] Emigration would also enable blacks to demonstrate the potential for not just equal agency of blacks compared to whites but also provide the opportunity to show potential “physiological superiority” over whites. For example, Delany writes that God had endowed blacks with “natural properties” to adapt to all climatic conditions (temperate, cold, and hot).[cv]

Demographic factors also bore the stamp of divine approval. Delany estimated the population of people of “pure European extractions” in the West Indies and Central and South America to be 3,495,714 in contrast to a colored population 20,974,286. This preponderance warranted the colored race to be “the ruling element, as they ever must be, of those countries.”[cvi] Delany, therefore, exhorted blacks to regard “this most fortunate, heaven-designed (and fixed) state and condition of things” as proof of God’s desire to elevate them through emigration. Persistent refusal to emigrate would result not only in the “universal possession and control by whites of every habitable portion of the earth” but also in blacks confronting the “disgrace and ordeal of Almighty displeasure.”

Delany’s use of religion to justify two contradictory goals, integration and emigration, is all too often neglected in their connection. To advance integration, Delany situated “the Kingdom of God” temporally (here in the United States) and argued it was attainable through the cultivation of a divine habit – materialism. When this failed, Delany externalized the divine kingdom; now, it was realizable only through divinely sanction and directed emigration – an undertaking that would paradoxically transport the Kingdom back to the United States and abroad. But, sadly again, Delany’s passionate pursuits met failure. Even when Delany applied himself to the Reconstruction Era of restoring the Union and finally bringing political justice to American blacks, the Republican Party failed Delany through its corruption and the Democrat Party failed Delany through its…well…Johnson.

In the earlier phase of Delany’s life, his religion was a component of the moral suasionist crusade. He used religion to effect a convergence of interests and aspirations between blacks and whites in order to render integration to be mutually acceptable and legitimate. When moral suasion collapsed in the late 1840s, it pulled every auxiliary component of Delany’s emphasis on religion along to his emigration movement – a movement founded on what many have misconceived as Delany’s radical thought – his nationalism…a dramatic shift in his views. Yet, Delany built his emigrationist platform upon a religious foundation that has been submerged beneath the misguided conception of a nineteenth-century black nationalism – especially pertaining to the separatist aspects of black nationalism as a militant, countervailing cultural phenomenon. Though Delany used religion to justify emigration, he was careful to emphasize the pervasive power of a ubiquitous God, whose universal laws – fixed and immutable – governed humanity – irrespective of geographical or physiological differences.

Delany did not urge emigration en masse. His constituency was the free black community of “sterling worth” – the resourceful, educated, and wealth few who, Delany hoped, would develop the economic and moral force of a foreign land (the external equivalence of moral suasion) that would induce recognition, respect, and win long overdue concessions of freedom and equality to the entire oppressed, colored race in America.[cvii] The central focus of Delany’s emigrationist blueprint was not dramatic change in Africa, Central and South America, or the West Indies per se but about how change in these places would induce further, dramatic changes in an external environment – the United States specifically: “let us apply, first, the lever to ourselves [the select who are emigrating]; and the force that elevates us to the position of manhood’s considerations and honors, will cleft the manacle of every slave in the land.”[cviii] Emigration enabled Delany to externalize the geopolitical setting for the advancement of integration in the United States; the direct connection between the two approaches to humanity’s equality had more in common than just religious propagation. Yet, the narrowness of the emigrationist call and, more significantly, its correspondence with colonization became problematic. There existed a public relations difficulty in the movement’s appeal; it was difficult to demonstrate to blacks, beyond verbal promises, how the departure of a minority and their activities elsewhere would bring about positive reforms within the United States (think about the daily tormented slave on a plantation – “how does emigration directly benefit me?”) Furthermore, it was even more difficult to convince blacks that God sanctioned emigration as it was repeatedly associated by abolitionists as a scheme with the same purpose as the pernicious pro-slavery colonization movement. Delany’s alienation from the mainstream black struggle notwithstanding[cix], his ideas attest to his prudence and foresightedness being a product of the times. A significant paradox of his theology was its dualistic function: spiritualism served both integrationist and emigrationist purposes. Delany’s use of religion to advance capitalistic goals underlined his subscription, along with other middle-class blacks to the dominant Protestant work ethic.

Yet, in closing, we recognize that Delany was also ahead of his time. His utilitarian and secular application of religion – the contention that religion is relevant only to the extent that it addresses secular problems – was revolutionary in the context of the nineteenth-century black struggle. His liberation theology was not just for any race but for the plight of the oppressed anywhere. At the root of that theology was the exigency for an enlightened humanity (of all peoples)[cx] to embrace their duty to Higher Power to respect one another’s equal agency in applying themselves to equal opportunities – a message that is as relevant then as it is today.

[i] Vernon Loggins. The Negro Author in America: His Development to 1900. New York: Columbia University Press (1931)

[ii] Bill McAdoo. “Pre-Civil War Black Nationalism.” Progressive Labor, 5 (June-July), 31-56, 65-68.

[iii] Harold Cruse. The Crisis of the Negro Intellectual. New York: William Morrow and Co., pp. 5-6, 129, 226, 327, 341,344, 431, 588, 565 (1967)

[iv] Biographies on Delany would refer to his religious rearing but there does not seem to exist any substantial analysis of religion’s impact on Delany’s thought except for the occasional piece detailing the religious hypocrisy and resignification in “Blake”. Most of the modern scholarship especially focuses on black nationalism, Pan-Africanism, and black rebellion.

[v] Martin R. Delany, Blake or the Huts of America, Beacon Press, p. 258 (1970)

[vi] Details of Delany’s life come from the few available biographies. Of note: Frank Rollin, The Life and Public Services of Martin R. Delany (Boston: Lee and Shepard, 1868)

[vii] Gaines, John I. “Address to M. R. Delaney.” North Star, p. 3 (June 2nd, 1848)

[viii] Frank Rollin, The Life and Public Services of Martin R. Delany (Boston: Lee and Shepard, 1868), 24-25

[ix] There are surprisingly many similarities between Cicero’s values and Delany’s. Further research is definitely warranted. For Cicero’s advocacy of a moral propriety that checked the appetites, see De Officiis, Book I xxxv-xxxvi.

[x] For a drawn-out portrayal of Delany’s “elitism”, see Nell I. Painter, “Martin R. Delany: Elitism and Black Nationalism” in Leon Litwack and August Meier (eds), Black Leaders of the Nineteenth Century (1988). Just as Delany lauded the organized cleanliness of blacks in Ohio, so does he implore the blacks he saw in Africa to take up more “civilized” manners, so does he chastise Southern blacks during Reconstruction for making a mockery of themselves with their slovenly lifestyles.

[xi] Efforts by white abolitionists were met with skepticism by Delany who sought it as the whites’ co-opting of the movement for equality as they basically made blacks servile symbolically due to black dependency on the jobs offered and reforms made by these “liberal” whites. See Martin R. Delany, The Condition, Elevation, Emigration and Destiny of the Colored People of the United States (Philadelphia: the author, 1852), chapter 5 – “Means of Elevation”

[xii] I pull from various letters of Delany’s during his stint with the North Star in the following sections and throughout the paper. I will specifically cite a few but of general interest:

Martin R. Delany, Letter (Appearing In) the North Star (December 15th, 1848)

Martin R. Delany, Letter (Appearing In) the North Star (March 3rd, 1848)

Martin R. Delany, Letter (Appearing In) the North Star (April 7th, 1848)

Martin R. Delany, Letter (Appearing In) the North Star (April 14th, 1848)

Martin R. Delany, Letter (Appearing In) the North Star (May 26th, 1848)

Martin R. Delany, Letter (Appearing In) the North Star (June 9th, 1848)

Martin R. Delany, Letter (Appearing In) the North Star (June 16th, 1848)

Martin R. Delany, Letter (Appearing In) the North Star (August 15th, 1848)

Martin R. Delany, Letter (Appearing In) the North Star (February 16th, 1849)

Martin R. Delany, Letter (Appearing In) the North Star (June 6th, 1849)

Martin R. Delany, Letter (Appearing In) the North Star (June 15th,1849)

[xiii] Some have actually fallen to their economic policy biases and unfairly and unfoundedly applied a Marxist label to Delany (Robert Bone. The Negro Novel in America. New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press, pp. 30, 31) as well as proclaiming that Delany was “a revolutionary, an anarchist, a nihilist, and a communist” (Victor Ullman, Martin R. Delany: The Beginnings of Black Nationalism. Boston: Beacon Press, pp. 534). The only manner I could think of Delany as Marxist is if I step by and view him as a black intellectual who desires a revolutionary movement based on social relevance, political engagement, and organizational involvement. Yet, if anything, Delany’s approach to the issue of black oppression and his subsequent opinions on solving the problem seem more of a structural attack on the current “regime of truth” while speaking on behalf of universal black interests – seems more like Foucault.

[xiv] Martin R. Delany, Blake or the Huts of America, Beacon Press, p. 43 (1970)

[xv] For the connection of Christianity, capitalism, and protestant missionaries, see “Report of the Niger Valley Exploring Party”, A Documentary Reader (edited by Robert Levine), p. 346-347

[xvi] See Martin R. Delany, “Letter to Douglass” in Delany Document Reader, p. 134 (February 24th, 1849); Delany could have been substituted with Emerson in his description of the Alleghany Mountains as inspirations to greatness and testaments to man’s connection with nature.

[xvii] Delany’s writing on popular government as well as his condemnation of “a misconcpetion of the character and ways of Deity” by blacks in “Condition” echo Montesquieu – i.e. a disavowal of passive belief as a step towards political empowerment.

[xviii] Delany’s preference for Protestantism – especially a Weberian Protestant work ethic – appear throughout his writings: e.g. See “Domestic Economy” in A Documentary Reader (edited by Robert Levine), p. 151

[xix] Whenever Delany stopped on his travels, he always seemed to make a point to speak at a church. There exist countless records of announcements and adverts highlighting Delany’s lectures in these houses of God: e.g.  Anonymous, “Lecture Announcement” in Provincial Freedman, p. 178 (March 22nd, 1856)

[xx] Frank Rollin, The Life and Public Services of Martin R. Delany (Boston: Lee and Shepard, 1868)

[xxi] Reverend Clark of the African Methodist Episcopal church in Pittsburgh and Revered Stevens of the Wesleyan church in Allegheny both supported anti-slavery efforts

[xxii] Martin R. Delany, The Condition, Elevation, Emigration and Destiny of the Colored People of the United States (Philadelphia: the author, 1852), chapter 4

[xxiii] Tunde Adeleke, Without Regard to Race: The Other Martin Robison Delany,  p. 56 (2009); this point is somewhat ironic considering that many then and even now considered Delany quite “conservative” in espousing of capitalism and willingness, during the Reconstruction Era, to work with whites in creating economic systems benefiting both races.

[xxiv] Anonymous, “Proceedings of the Anti-Slavery Convention Held in Philadelphia” in North Star, p. 1 (November 10th, 1848); Anonymous, “Untitled Letter to Martin R. Delany” in North Star, p. 3 (April 27th, 1849)

[xxv] Recalling my AP US History class from high school, in full disclosure – and I would be interested to know your opinion on this – could the racist, anti-abolitionist riots during the 1830s have also contributed to the hesitation of some churches not to support the movement for moral suasion?

[xxvi] Martin R. Delany, Blake or the Huts of America, Beacon Press, p. 9 (1970)

[xxvii] Martin R. Delany, “Domestic Economy” in A Documentary Reader (edited by Robert Levine), p. 153

[xxviii] Matthew 6:33

[xxix] Matthew 6:11

[xxx] Martin R. Delany, The Condition, Elevation, Emigration and Destiny of the Colored People of the United States, p. 64

[xxxi] Martin R. Delany, The Condition, Elevation, Emigration and Destiny of the Colored People of the United States, Pages 37-38

[xxxii] 2nd Corinthians 6:2

[xxxiii] Martin R. Delany, “Domestic Economy” in A Documentary Reader (edited by Robert Levine), p. 151

[xxxiv] Martin R. Delany, “The Origins and Objects of Ancient Freemasonry” in A Documentary Reader (edited by Robert Levine), p. 54

[xxxv] Ibid

[xxxvi] Martin R. Delany, “Letter to Frederick Douglass – February 24th, 1849” in A Documentary Reader (edited by Robert Levine), p. 134

[xxxvii] Martin R. Delany, “Report of the Niger Valley Exploring Party” in A Documentary Reader (edited by Robert Levine), p. 348

[xxxviii] Ibid

[xxxix] 1st John 3:17-18; James 2:15-17

[xl] Martin R. Delany, “Report of the Niger Valley Exploring Party” in A Documentary Reader (edited by Robert Levine), p. 348

[xli] Martin R. Delany, The Condition, Elevation, Emigration and Destiny of the Colored People of the United States, Pages 142, p.64

[xlii] Martin R. Delany, The Condition, Elevation, Emigration and Destiny of the Colored People of the United States, p. 64

[xliii] Martin R. Delany, The Condition, Elevation, Emigration and Destiny of the Colored People of the United States, ch. 4; Martin R. Delany, “Letter to William Coppinger” in A Documentary Reader (edited by Robert Levine), p. 484-485

[xliv] Martin R. Delany, Blake or the Huts of America, Beacon Press, p. 43 (1970); Martin R. Delany, “Political Events” in Chatham Provincial Freeman (July 5th, 1856)

[xlv] Martin R. Delany, “Letter to William Coppinger” in A Documentary Reader (edited by Robert Levine), p. 151

[xlvi] Matthew 4:4 = “Man does not live on bread alone.”

[xlvii] Martin R. Delany, “Political Events” in Chatham Provincial Freeman (July 5th, 1856)

[xlviii] I think this is the weakest point Delany makes; Delany, we have already seen, condemns any exploitation of a people as a denigration of God’s creation. I believe the allocation of resources to better oneself and their fellowman (as discussed in the prior paragraph) is the stronger argument.

[xlix] This claim could be countered by pointing out Delany doesn’t consider the spiritual rewards of eternity that blacks would receive for their religious commitment versus the judgments that would befall on whites for their immoral actions. That said,

[l] Every free man puts his hands to physical work – regardless of the extent he holds true to the Gospel.

[li] Genesis 1:26

[lii] Tommie Shelby, We Who Are Dark, p. 35

[liii] Martin R. Delany, “Domestic Economy” in A Documentary Reader (edited by Robert Levine), p. 153

[liv] Martin R. Delany, The Condition, Elevation, Emigration and Destiny of the Colored People of the United States, p.


[lvi] Martin R. Delany, “Domestic Economy” in A Documentary Reader (edited by Robert Levine), p. 153

[lvii] Martin R. Delany, Blake or the Huts of America, Beacon Press, p. 9 (1970)

[lviii] Martin R. Delany, Blake or the Huts of America, Beacon Press, p. 13 (1970)

[lix] Martin R. Delany, Blake or the Huts of America, Beacon Press, p. 12 (1970)

[lx] Martin R. Delany, Blake or the Huts of America, Beacon Press, p. 20 (1970)

[lxi] Martin R. Delany, “Domestic Economy” in A Documentary Reader (edited by Robert Levine), p. 151

[lxii] Ibid

[lxiii] Martin R. Delany, Blake or the Huts of America, Beacon Press, p. 41 (1970)

[lxiv] Martin R. Delany, Blake or the Huts of America, Beacon Press, p. 39 (1970)

[lxv] Interesting to also compare to the importance of religion during the American Revolution – especially because of the use of a peaceful, Christian religion by the Patriots to justify civic activism, communal accord, and violent insurrection. If the colonists were going to create their own republic, then a burden existed upon American character to possess a certain common sense – a collective genius. From public newspapers, to churches, to town hall meetings, the colonists were discussing and speaking on how to achieve such change; religion held the key with its virtues that so perfectly coincided with civic activism. A Massachusetts sermon of 1778 by Congregationalist minister Samuel Phillips clearly declared the most unique relationship between faith and government for “the liberty of heaven is that which” allows “the sons of God” to be “freed from the…tyranny of evil lusts and passions”. By disavowing such plaguing excess, the colonists could then be good stewards of civil liberty and participate in the elevation of American society.

[lxvii] Martin R. Delany, Blake or the Huts of America, Beacon Press, p. 258 (1970)

[lxviii] Martin R. Delany, Blake or the Huts of America, Beacon Press, p. 305 (1970); Cicero, De Officiis, II.vi-vii

[lxix] See Machiavelli, Discourses II.2

[lxx] See Machiavelli, Discouses III.1.3

[lxxi] See Machiavelli, Discourses III.1.2

[lxxii] Matthew 6:7-8; Luke 20:47

[lxxiii] Martin R. Delany, Blake or the Huts of America, Beacon Press, p. 39 (1970)

[lxxiv] Martin R. Delany, Blake or the Huts of America, Beacon Press, p. 69 (1970)

[lxxv] John 11:35

[lxxvi] Exodus 8:1; More to this point, Delany, like Moses, slew a slave-supporting assailant before his voyage into the wilderness of nature.

[lxxvii] Martin R. Delany, “Letter to Douglass – February 24th, 1849” in A Documentary Reader (edited by Robert Levine), p. 134

[lxxviii] Martin R. Delany, Blake or the Huts of America, Beacon Press, p. 291 (1970)

[lxxix] Ephesians 6:12

[lxxx] Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America – “The Three Races in the United States”

[lxxxi] Robert S. Levine, Martin Delany, Frederick Douglass, and the Politics of Representative Identity, p. 44-45; for further discussion on the Fugitive Slave Law, see Martin R. Delany, Condition, Elevation, Emigration and Destiny of the Colored People of the United States, Chapters 16

[lxxxii] Discussed in later works further, Delany wanted natural resources of the emigrated land used to bankrupt the South – especially by taking England’s cotton imports from the American South.

[lxxxiii] Anonymous. “New Publications.” Liberator (May 7, 1852), p. 74.

[lxxxiv] Bill McAdoo. “Pre-Civil War Black Nationalism.” Progressive Labor, 5 (June-July, 1966), 31-56, 65-68. The problem is that Delany would have preferred the liberation of blacks in America. This is testified due to the omission of all his emigrationist years in his biography by Rollins; moreover, Delany invested himself in the Freedmen’s Bureau after the Civil War – he even successfully convinced Abraham Lincoln to allow blacks to fight for the Union during the war.

For distinction of Delany and the ACS as well as his critiques of the organization, see also:

*Martin R. Delany, The Condition, Elevation, Emigration and Destiny of the Colored People of the United States, ch. XVIII

*Imanuel Geiss. “Notes on the Development of Pan-Africanism.” Journal of the Historical Society of Nigeria, 3 (June, 1967), 719-740.

*Hollis Lynch. Edward W. Blyden: Pan-Negro Patriot 1832-1912. New York: Oxford University Press, (1967) pp. 16-17, 23, 40, 108

Delany did make a personal appeal a high-level ACS officer for a potential position of patronage to allow him to emigrate to Africa, but, that said, this occurred in his later years when he did not have the financial means to accomplish such a venture and was simply realistically trying various options.

See: Martin R. Delany, “Letter to William Coppinger” in A Documentary Reader (edited by Robert Levine), p. 484-485

[lxxxv] Frederick Douglass. “The Letter of M. R. Delany.” Frederick Douglass’ Paper (May 6th, 1853), p. 2.

[lxxxvi] Anonymous. “The Condition, Elevation, Emigration, and Destiny of the Colored People of the United States.” Pennsylvania Freeman (April 29th, 1852), p. 70

[lxxxvii] Philip S. Foner and George Walker (eds.), Proceedings of the Black State Conventions, 1840-1865 VOL 2 – Page 93 (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1974)

[lxxxviii] Carter Woodson and Charles Wesley. The Story of the Negro Retold. Washington, DC: Associated Publishers, (1935)

[lxxxix] Martin R. Delany, The Condition, Elevation, Emigration and Destiny of the Colored People of the United States, p. 175

[xc] Martin R. Delany, “Letter to Professor M.H. of Avery College” in Weekly Anglo-African (February 1st, 1862)

[xci] Martin R. Delany, “Principia of Ethnology” in A Documentary Reader (edited by Robert Levine), p. 468-484



[xciv] “Convention of Colored Persons in Pennsylvania” in The Pennsylvania Freeman (23 October 1852)

[xcv] Martin R. Delany, Condition, Elevation, Emigration and Destiny of the Colored People of the United States, Chapters 8-9

[xcvi] See Rollin, Life and Public Services, Page 353

[xcvii] Martin R. Delany, “Report of the Niger Valley Exploring Party” in A Documentary Reader (edited by Robert Levine), Section X

[xcviii] Martin R. Delany, “Report of the Niger Valley Exploring Party” in A Documentary Reader (edited by Robert Levine), p. 357; Psalms 68:31

[xcix] See M. R. Delany to James McCune Smith, The Weekly Anglo-African (January 4th, 1862)

[c] Harold Cruse. The Crisis of the Negro Intellectual. New York: William Morrow and Co., pp. 5-6, 129, 226, 327, 341,344, 431, 588, 565

[ci] “Call for a National emigration Convention of Colored Men”, The Provincial Freeman (March 25th, 1854)

[cii] Martin R. Delany, (A Response Appearing In) Frederick Douglass’s Paper (November 18th, 1853)

[ciii] Philip S. Foner and George Walker (eds.), Proceedings of the Black State Conventions, 1840-1865 VOL 2 (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1974)

[civ] For these proceedings, see Provincial Freeman (June 7th, 1856)

[cv] Martin R. Delany, Condition, Elevation, Emigration and Destiny of the Colored People of the United States, p. 215

[cvi] Martin R. Delany, “Political Destiny of the Colored Race” in A Documentary Reader (edited by Robert Levine), p. 250

[cvii] Martin R. Delany, Condition, Elevation, Emigration and Destiny of the Colored People of the United States, p. 210

[cviii] Martin R. Delany, Condition, Elevation, Emigration and Destiny of the Colored People of the United States, p. 219

[cix] Delany always had difficult, due to his stalwart passion and ideology, to make constructive progress with those who disagreed with him. His adamancy of moral propriety and exigency for personal improvement has made him be perceived as elitist. The topic of Delany’s “elitism” (or even being a “sellout)  is usually targeted at his work during the Reconstruction Era i.e. his willingness to support Democrats in light of Republican corruption as well as his Triple Alliance economic system for Southern lands.


*Nell I. Painter, “Martin R. Delany: Elitism and Black Nationalism” in Leon Litwack and August Meier (eds), Black Leaders of the Nineteenth Century (1988).

**Randall Kennedy, Sellout: The Politics of Racial Betryal, pp. 6, 38

All said, Delany always advocated these moral standards and would publicly compliment those who lived orderly, moral lives (did so during his Western Tour for the “North Star”) while condemning those who didn’t.

[cx] Martin R. Delany, “True Patriotism” in A Documentary Reader (edited by Robert Levine), p. 137

Speak Your Mind

Tell us what you're thinking...
and oh, if you want a pic to show with your comment, go get a gravatar!