BHM2021- Major Dr. Martin Delany: Civil War Strategist, inventor, judge and writer


Portrait of Maj. Martin R. Delany

"Majoring in History at an HBCU can be remarkable. Little did I know when choosing Central State University that I would find myself in Wilberforce, Ohio where many great Black intellectuals called home. W.E.B DuBois, Bishop Allen, Charles Wesley, and Martin Delany were among those men. As students, we would pass Delany's unassuming grave marker, (his named misspelled) and share the legend of the 1st Black Major in the Civil War who provided key strategy for President Lincoln and the Union Army and who considered emigrating the free slave back to Africa, an opinion held by many Black leaders at that time. Delaney is often forgotten about during Black History Month yet his accomplishment were so great. The Martin Luther King Republicans encourage you to visit his burial site and the National Afro-American Museum & Cultural Center in Wilberforce where the following information was gathered. And as always, please COMMENT, LIKE, and SHARE. Thank you."- Jimmy Lee Tillman, II founder, and president.


Who is Martin Delaney?

Martin Robison Delany has been called the “Father of Black Nationalism” because he aggressively promoted black pride and self-reliance. He was born May 6, 1812, in present-day West Virginia, where it was illegal for him to learn to read and write.

Fearing prosecution, his family moved to Pennsylvania, where he could attend school. Many years later he would move his own family to Wilberforce, Ohio, so that his children could obtain a quality education.


Throughout his adult life, Delany was an advocate for Black Americans. He founded and published a Black newspaper, The Mystery, in Pittsburgh and later co-edited The North Star with abolitionist Frederick Douglass. Wanting to provide care to the community, Delany was among the first African Americans admitted to Harvard University medical school. Prior to the Civil War, he criticized the government for permitting slavery and abolitionists who lacked commitment to Black equality and justice. Concerned that slavery in America would never end, Delany traveled to Africa to secure a homeland for Black Americans.


Major Martin R. Delany in Union Army officer uniform

With the outbreak of the Civil War, Delany had renewed hope that all African Americans would be free. He recruited Black troops for the Union Army and met with President Abraham Lincoln to discuss a strategy for ending the war. Lincoln appointed Delany a major, making him the highest-ranking field-grade officer in the U.S. Colored Troops. Following the war, Delany served in the Freedman’s Bureau to protect the rights of former slaves.


Delany was an abolitionist, a physician, a leader in Prince Hall Freemasonry, an inventor, a judge and a prolific writer. In everything he did, Delany was a practical man, determined to achieve freedom and justice for African Americans. He died January 24, 1885, in Wilberforce, and is buried at Massies Creek Cemetery, just two miles from his family home. His final resting-place was marked with a small government-issued tombstone—with his name misspelled.


A fund was established to secure a fitting memorial for this remarkable man, not only to honor him, but to educate and inspire visitors to the cemetery who may not know that this giant of American history is buried there. The Delany family plot is the resting place of Martin Delany, his wife Catherine, and three of their children, who have no markers. The original marker will be preserved in place because of its great historic significance. The new monument is made of Black African granite to reflect Delany’s pride in his ancestral homeland, and features an engraving of Delany as a Major in the Civil War. Bronze plaques provide a summary of his life in addition to the names of the family members buried there.


Delany's original grave marker in Wilberforce, Ohio of

Maj. Dr. Martin R. Delany burial site in Wilberforce, Ohio

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