Martin Delaney and the American Dream

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Martin Delaney and the American Journey
“We are a nation within a nation, we must go from our oppressors”
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Ryan CruseA.P. U.S. History
Mr. Hodgson Period 4
24th of January, 2013|

Martin Delaney and the American Journey
“We are a nation within a nation, we must go from our oppressors”
Martin R. Delaney, born in 1812 to an enslaved father and free mother in Charles Town, [West] Virginia, was a renowned and outspoken African American abolitionist, writer, and politician. He briefly attended Harvard Medical School to complete his formal medical education, but was deferred via a prejudiced petition from other students. As the sanguinary conflict between the Union and the Confederacy erupted, he served as the first black field officer in the Union Army during the American Civil War (1861-1865), thereby encouraging scores of other black citizens to enlist (Butler). As a vehemently individualistic author, he composed numerous progressive texts that delineated the strife and various dilemmas that he and the vast majority of black citizens faced in the United States. Delaney collaborated with other prominent abolitionists including the likes of William Lloyd Garrison, and also Frederick Douglass, with whom he coedited The North Star (Stanford). As such a passionate activist for black freedom, he enthralled the [rightfully so] malcontented black slaves and denizens of America with his steadfast opinions. Delaney’s ultimate stance was one of mass emigration; he deplored African Americans to escape the ignorance of “their oppressors” by settling in West Africa along the Niger River (Butler). Thus, he is recurrently remembered as the “Father of Black Nationalism.” Nevertheless, this conventional perception of Delaney’s outlook is rendered inadequate by the actuality of his ideology of ‘transformatism,’ (which lacked reference or pride to a specific geographical region or country) or the refusal to accept subservience and the notion that African liberation would originate in a commitment to self-definition, sacrifice, and a will to create one’s own peaceful ‘world’ (Asante). Essentially, Martin Delaney’s fundamental contributions to the American journey encompassed his vital participation in the Abolitionist movement, his unprecedented service to the Union Army during the Civil War, and his militant ideology of pseudo nationalism and transformatism.

One of Martin Delaney’s most distinctive and idiosyncratic aspects that pertained to the ‘American journey’ was his unconventional ideology, or personal philosophy. His progressive views were highly cogent among the lower classes of oppressed African Americans, who rallied around the prospect of being free. Delaney was associated with the notion of the emigration of African Americans to West Africa along the Niger River. However, Delaney cannot be incontrovertibly referred to as the “Father of Black Nationalism,” because such conduct would consign him to a singular geographic region; there was neither a black nation nor a specific region with which he identified (Asante). Thus, irrespective of popular opinion and moderate nationalistic tendencies, Delaney was more of a transformatist. Through his writings, essays, and the novel Blake, it is apparent that he refused to surrender to subservience and inferiority, while simultaneously contending that self-identity and self-determination were motivators for human maturity and personal liberation (Asante). This progressive ideology – of which Delany was most likely the first founder – elicited a philosophy that resonated for generations among prominent African American thinkers. Hence his methodology of thought influenced the ‘American journey’ of many black denizens of the United States.

Delaney’s “transformatism” encompassed five prepositions with which he pioneered the area of liberation theory. First, the individual must analyze his or her historical and present societal condition; they must question...
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