Martin R. Delany: America’s Unacknowledged Pioneer Black Conservative (80624)

Session Information: History/Historiography
Session Chair: Ngoc Thuy Vi Pham

Sunday, 26 May 2024 09:55
Session: Session 1
Room: Room 707
Presentation Type: Oral Presentation

All presentation times are UTC + 9 (Asia/Tokyo)

Juxtaposing Conservatism and Martin Delany (1812-1885) creates tension in modern Black Nationalist discourse. The two seem existentially irreconcilable. Delany is remembered and celebrated as an uncompromisingly militant and anti-establishment black nationalist. This is the dominant, all-encompassing theme in Delany historiography. However, Delany evinced complexity and nuance. He was as much a conservative as he was radical. At times, he opted for utilitarianism and pragmatism that allowed for straddling of different and often conflicting dispositions. As he once declared, “I care little for precedent, and therefore, discard the frivolous rules of formality…conforming always to principle, suggested by conscience, and guided by the light of reason”. This declaration prioritized conscience and reason over loyalty to party or dogma. This conscience-driven philosophy birthed the conservatism of his thought, which complicated the “radicalism” that infused his Black Nationalist discourses. Acknowledging this conservatism is vital to understanding the ambivalences of Delany’s life and thought. He was a complex and politically savvy person; and certainly, much more pragmatic than the radical personality glamorized in Black American History. Paradoxically, Delany’s conservative ideas could have inspired Booker T. Washington, widely acclaimed, and highly respected Black conservative. There was so much of Delany’s ideas in Booker T. Washington’s conservatism. This paper will explore how Delany’s 19th century conservative ideas influenced Booker T. Washington’s 20th century conservatism.

Tunde Adeleke, Iowa State University, United States

About the Presenter(s)
Dr. Adeleke is currently a University Professor at Iowa State University. He is author of the critically acclaimed book; UNAFRICAN AMERICANS: NINETEENTH CENTURY BLACK NATIONALISTS AND THE CIVILIZING MISSION (Kentucky, 1998).

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Posted by Clive Staples Lewis

Last updated: 2023-02-23 23:45:00