Is Going Back To Africa Better For Blacks? He Thought So

Martin Delany/Unknown/Wikimedia/Public Domain

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We all know of Frederick Douglass, but we rarely know anything about his close friend and rival Martin Robison Delany. Born to an enslaved Black man and a free mother, Delany became known as the "Father of Black Nationalism." He, like many others, advocated for Blacks to emigrate out of America.

As a student at Bethel Church School, he became involved in abolitionist activities. He led the Vigilance Committee, searched for fugitive slaves and joined the local militia to protect the community from mob attacks.

He later met Frederick Douglass and was persuaded to write for his publication, The North Star. They always bumped heads and they had very different views on repatriation. After five years they parted way and Delany wrote his own publications.

His book The Condition, Elevation, Emigration and Destiny of the Colored People of the United States Politically Considered prompted a trip to Nigeria to buy land for Blacks who wanted to leave America.

After emancipation, Delany thought repatriation might not be necessary for Blacks. He became the highest-ranking African-American in the Union Army and he tried to go into politics.

After seeing how Black votes were suppressed, he focused his energy back on emigration to Africa, serving on the Liberia Exodus Joint Stock Steamship Company.

Douglass made a famous statement about his collaborator and friend, "I thank God for making me a man, but Delany thanks Him for making him a Black man." This quote, in the minds of many, underscored Delany’s commitment to Black nationalism.

Delany’s unending dedication to efforts to get Blacks to Africa was not lost. Taunts from white people to “go back to Africa” are a little bit ironic as there was a movement for Blacks to go back to Africa. Many Blacks today want to go back to the homeland. One man even promised to go back to Africa on the condition that racists pay for it.   

Many find comfort in staying here in America, but the countries in Africa are prosperous places all on their own. Rumors and unfounded falsehoods do nothing but create mystery about the continent when it is as wondrous a place as any.

Read more about Delany’s powerful ideas in his work The Condition, Elevation, Emigration and Destiny of the Colored People of the United States Politically Considered.

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