Martin Robison Delany was born in Charlestown, Virginia (now Charles Town, West Virginia) on May 6, 1812. His mother, Patti Peace was a free black woman. She married an enslaved man from Berkeley County named Samuel Delany. They had five children and Martin was the youngest."Do not fail to have an interview with this most extraordinary and intelligent
During that time there was a law in Virginia that prohibited blacks from learning to read and write. Patti Delany broke the law by trading some material that she had to a peddler for a book. The name of the book was The New York Primer and Spelling Book. She used that book to teach her children to read and write. For fear of being arrested and having her children taken away from her, Patti Delany left Charles Town in 1823 and moved to Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. Samuel Delany later purchased his freedom and joined his family in Chambersburg.
Martin Robison Delany went on to become, among other things, a medical doctor, editor, author, and explorer. During the Civil War, Delany met with President Abraham Lincoln. Delany told President Lincoln of his plan to recruit black troops commanded by black officers to go south and fight. President Lincoln accepted this plan and sent a note to Secretary of War Edwin Stanton advising Stanton to meet with Delany.
As a result of the meeting with Lincoln and Stanton, Delany received a commission as a major in the United States Colored Troops, making him at the time the highest-ranking black officer.
Following his military service Delany returned to his home in Wilberforce, Ohio where he resumed his medical practice. Doctor and Major Martin Robison Delany died in Wilberforce, Ohio on January 24, 1885.
"I thank God for making me a man, but Delany always thanks Him for making him a black man."
"His was a magnificent life, yet how many of us have heard of him?"
Dr. W.E.B. Du Bois