Martin R. Delany is one of the most interesting people you’ve never heard of. He was, over the course of a long life (1812-85), a writer, editor, abolitionist, Harvard medical student, physician, judge, acquaintance of John Brown, and the first African American commissioned a major in the Army. He is also widely considered America’s first black nationalist, the forerunner of Marcus Garvey, Paul Robeson, and Malcolm X. But unless you’re a close student of African American history or 19th-century American literature, chances are very good that you don’t know much about Delany, who stands in the long shadow cast by Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington, and W.E.B. DuBois.
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