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The Elevation of the Colored People of the United States

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The purpose of this paper is to discuss the kind of community that Martin Delany saw for his people in the future. But before the future can be discussed, the present condition of colored people during that time period must be discussed. Delany started by looking at the conditions of the different social classes found in Europe. He then compared the condition of colored people in the United States. Martin Delany noted that those in Europe were only denied political rights, whereas, the colored people in the United States were denied political and natural rights. This reminds me of David Walker’s Appeal where David Walker believed that colored people were the most degraded and unfairly treated people than any other beings. Martin Delany believes that colored people in the United States must rise above the standard that has been set for them. They must take action to elevate to the status that they deserve to reach.

Martin Delany imagined a community where colored people elevated. When I say elevate, I mean to rise above the “standard” and limitations that have been set for them by white people. He believed that they- the colored people- could do go own to do great things. I would say that he believed in Black Excellence, a term used today. I read that black excellence is being able to look back on the hundreds of years of being enslaved and abused and see where it has brought us. We can be able to say that we rose and prospered. Delany believed that they could rise.

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Martin Delany imagined a community where colored men could hold any office that a white man could. He mentioned that out of all the positions held, only three black men were working in the Liberator Office in Boston. Only three black men! They had hoped that more of the positions would be held by men of color, but that was not the case. He imagined a community where all are equal. He and the other people of color believed in “universal equality” as declared by God. He noted what God’s word said. “God has made of one blood all the nations that dwell on the face of Earth. Interestingly, Martin Delany notes that colored people make up two-thirds of the Earth’s population, and yet somehow the whites are the ones with the most power. There is a two to one ratio. The Bible mentions that two are better than one. So, if two are better than one, why was there slavery? Why According to Delany, colored people are very religious and that is not a bad thing. But unfortunately, they relied too heavily on religion and that was their downfall. They stood by idly, waiting for God to do the things that they needed to do for themselves. So, then what was the solution? How could they elevate in the midst of oppression?

Delany said that moral theories were not enough. They needed to use practical applications to elevate. They have tried to reason and moralize equality. They held on tightly to the belief that they were “as good as anybody,” but Delany asks how did they compare? They worked for the whites. Colored men worked as coachmen, cook-men, and waiting men. The women worked as nurses, scrubwomen, maids, and washerwomen. Delany thought that it was pointless to continue with this notion of equality until the colored men reached a point of superiority. If they reached that point, they could prevent their wives and daughters from having to work for the white men and women. Delany held that to have equality, the conditions needed to change so that the person could change. For the colored man to elevate, he needed to have the same knowledge and opportunities that the white men had. But they could not just sit around and wait for the opportunities to come to them. Delany urged that the elevation of the colored people needed to be a result of their own efforts. They needed to take matters into their own hands. It did not matter if they stayed in the United States or not. This was the only way to obtaining equality and elevating themselves.

Somewhere along the way, there was a shift and Delany’s mindset shifted. Martin Delany believed that a slave was better than they, the freedmen because the slaves “know who holds the heel upon his bosom,” while the freedman does not know their fate. They had no idea when they would be taken and enslaved again. It seemed as if they were living a life of fear. They were free and should have been enjoying their freedom. They should not have had to worry about being enslaved again. I think this showed the power of racism. The whites saw the colored people as beneath them. They would never be equals. It is said that this still applies today. There are some white people today who still believe that black people are beneath them. They do not like us simply because of the color of our skin. And that fear is still prevalent today. We do not have to fear being enslaved, but we do fear for our lives. But this has been going on for years. The question is when will it end?

Delany did not believe it was possible for people of Color in the United States to truly be free. They stood no chance of advancing and moving up in the social class. He did not believe that they would ever have political rights. The constitution made it seem as if there was no differentiation between people with the United States. Martin Delany stated that this is not true. The value of colored people was significantly reduced putting them beneath the whites. At any time they could be arrested and held in bondage because the whites had that power. The Constitution and laws made by the whites talked about having fair trials, but Delany cautioned people of color to not be deceived as there was no such thing in the case of colored people. He said that “our rights and liberty are entirely at their disposal.” They were still slaves even though they were free. I think it is crazy how one could be free, but still, be captive. It was not so much them being physically bound, but mentally. I believe this just shows how strong the effects of slavery were. It was like the freed people did not know what to do with their freedom. They did not know how to be free. Delany stated, “We are slaves amid freedom, waiting patiently, stupidly, and unconcernedly for masters to come and lay claim to us.” Martin Delany proposed that they move out of the United States to have a better chance at life. But where would they go?

Many have heard the phrase “there is no place like home.” When Martin Delany proposed that the colored people move out of the United States, he suggested that they go back to their homeland, Africa. More specifically, he suggested that they go to the Republic of Liberia. But then he changed his mind. I assume he traveled there first to scope out the land. He said that the location or the “geographical position” was in an unhealthy district making it an unseemly place for them to go. He also said that the slaveholders in Liberia had planned to do away with the free colored people emigrating from the United States. Delany thought going to Liberia would be best to escape. He realized that Liberia was not the Independent Republic.

Martin Delany called Liberia a “poor miserable mockery.” They depended on the American Colonizationists and the Colonization Board in D.C. to be their government. The president of Liberia was simply a replica of the leaders of the colonization scheme in America. Delany plainly said, “Liberia is no place for the colored Freeman of the United States.” So the question remains, where would they go? Martin Delany considered Canada West. But Canada had its disadvantages. Canadians shared common ancestry with the Americans. Delany believed it possible that the Americans would have the Canadians watch out for the free colored people and if caught, send them back to America to be enslaved again. This must have been tough. They wanted to leave the United States to have a chance at a better life, but it seemed that no matter where they tried to go, they could not “escape” the United States. Again, where would they go?

It was finally decided that Central and South America would be their destination. It was everything that they had been looking for. The climate varied which was good. It was not too hot or too cold. The land was fruitful, and they had some of the best animals. Martin Delany said that the advantages of moving to Central and South America, and the West Indies were far greater than that of anywhere else in the world. They did not have to worry about being treated differently because of their race. They felt more “at home” there than they did in Africa. Delany finally felt they were in a place where they could elevate and enjoy being free.

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