Martin Delany, Frederick Douglass, and the Politics of Representative Identity

Martin Delany, Frederick Douglass, and the Politics of Representative Identity

Martin Delany, Frederick Douglass, and the Politics of Representative Identity

Martin Delany, Frederick Douglass, and the Politics of Representative Identity

Synopsis

"The fullest and richest direct comparison to date of the literary careers of Frederick Douglas and Martin Delany". David W. Blight, Amherst College

These long-ignored debates have much to offer contemporary students of African American Leadership

The differences between Frederick Douglas and Martin Delany have historically been reduced to a simple binary pronouncement: assimilationist versus separatist. Now Robert S. Levine restores the relationship of these two important nineteenth-century African American writers to its original complexity. He explores their debates over issues like abolitionism, emigration, and nationalism, illuminating each man's influence on the other's political vision. He also examines Delany and Douglas's debates in relation to their own writings and to the work of Harriet Beecher Stowe.

Though each saw himself as the single best representative of his race, Douglas has been accorded that role by history -- while Delany, according to Levine, has suffered a fate typical of the black separatist: marginalization. In restoring Delany to his place in literary and cultural history, Levine makes possible a fuller understanding of the politics of antebellum African American leadership.

Excerpt

In this chapter I read My Bondage and My Freedom in the context of Douglass's unfolding career as representative African American leader, placing a particular emphasis on the work he wanted the text to do in its publication year of 1855. in retelling his journey from slavery to freedom in the middle of the decade, less than a year after the Cleveland emigration convention, Douglass was responding implicitly to the arguments of Delany and other emigrationists that in the foreseeable future blacks would remain slaves, or de facto slaves, in the United States -- arguments that would appear to have gained added currency with the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act in 1854. Central to Douglass's continued hopefulness about blacks' prospects in the United States, despite such obviously negative developments, was a renewed commitment following his 1851 break with Garrison to the informing ideals of the nation's originary, revolutionary documents. As he remarked in his 1854 speech "Slavery, Freedom, and the Kansas-Nebraska Act": "The only intelligible principle on which popular sovereignty is founded, is found in the Declaration of American Independence, there and in these words: We hold these . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.