Journalist, abolitionist, physician and editor, Martin Robison Delany ( May 6, 1812- Jan. 24, 1885) was born free in Charles Town, Virginia. Delany’s mother believed that reading and writing was vital to the success of her children, but Virginia prohibited the education of Black people, so she moved her children to Pennsylvania, a “free state.” At 19, Delany walked 160 miles from Pittsburgh to Bethel Church School for Blacks and Jefferson College to learn Latin, Greek, and the Classics. He also studied medicine.
As a young adult, Delany was active in multiple movements ranging from the abolition of slavery, to the temperance movement and the back to Africa movement. As an abolitionist, he helped form the Young Men’s Literary and Moral Reform Society and the Vigilance Committee to help relocate previously enslaved Black people and to teach them how to read. He was doing these things after Nat Turner’s Rebellion which made reading illegal for enslaved people. In 1833, Delany opened up his own medical practice specializing in leeches and cupping. A decade later, he also started his own newspaper called, The Mystery. The paper focused on topics related to the freedom of Black people and ideas about a “Black Israel” in Africa.