Without Regard to Race: The Other Martin Robison Delany

By Tunde Adeleke | Go to book overview
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Delany Historiography

“I AM AN invisible man… I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone, fiber and liquids—and I might even be said to possess a mind. I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me. Like the bodiless heads you see sometimes in circus sideshows, it is as though I have been surrounded by mirrors of hard, distorting glass. When they approach me they see only my surroundings, themselves, or figments of their imagination—indeed, everything and anything except me,” laments the hero in Ralph Ellison’s epic novel Invisible Man.1 This characterization aptly captures the larger invisibility that defined the fate of blacks in American history. As historian Idus Newby brilliantly articulates, for decades leading American historians persistently de-emphasized, and at times completely ignored, the presence and contributions of blacks to the historical and national development of America.2 He identifies the “invisible perspective” as among several negative historical paradigms that shaped American scholarly representations of the black experience.3 In nineteenth-century black American history, Martin Delany exemplified the perfect prototype of the invisible man. His invisibility was two-fold. First, he did not begin to receive due scholarly recognition and respect until the late 1960s and early 1970s. He shared this late recognition along with many other black leaders. Second, and perhaps more important, he exemplified the Ellisonian invisibility model. Even when he began to receive attention, he remained largely misunderstood


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Without Regard to Race: The Other Martin Robison Delany


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