Time Line of Martin R. Delany's Life



More than one noted historian has said Martin Delany lived several lifetimes rolled into one. His fertile mind and the principled conscience to which he felt absolutely beholden led him across three continents and countless experiences and challenges. This timeline captures the scope of his vast and important odyssey. (NOTE: Capitalized words denote names of major new residences of MRD. Entries within parentheses are "indirect influences" on MRD's life path.



MRD joins General Rufus Saxton as part of the 52nd U.S.Colored Troops.


Major Delany is transferred to the new Freedman's Bureau, assigned as subassistant commissioner to Hilton Head on the South Seas Islands where he shocks white officers with his oratory, and strong call for the right of freed blacks to own land: "forty acres and a mule."


MRD is mustered out of the Freedman's Bureau and restationed at Hilton Head, S.C. Gen. Rufus Saxton replaced by the state's new governor, Maj. Gen. Robert K. Scott, an appointee of Pres. Andrew Johnson with less commitment to helping freed blacks, who becomes known for corruption.

Gen. Robert Scott
Gen. Scott

12/1865 to 1/1866

MRD responds to plan by blacks on Sea Island to confiscate planters' land with an appeal for them to improve business skills and negotiate good prices for cotton from Northern agents for cotton they would grow under contract on land owned by Southern planters.


MRD cleared of stealing when investigation showed he was only trying to obtain higher prices for black farmers from Northern agents for their cotton.


MRD opposes in a private letter reprinted in "The New York Tribune," the proposed U.S. Vice Presidential candidacy on an abolitionist ticket with Wendell Phillips of a young black man named J.J. Wright, arguing the need for more experience and education.


MRD unsuccessfuly sought post of Minister Resident and Consul General in Liberia.


MRD opposes the candidacy of a certain black man for mayor of Charleston, SC.


MRD is in New York City's financial district trying to sell bonds of the State of South Carolina.


MRD runs unsuccessfully on a "dissident" anti corruption Republican ticket for lieutenant governor of the state and loses.


While sitting as a trial justice in Charleston, SC, trumped up charges of "defrauding a church" are brought against MRD.


Despite strong support attesting to his character, MRD resigns as trial justice to serve a one year term after being convicted on this charge.


MRD is pardoned by the governor. After Governor Chamberlain refuses to give MRD his old trial justice job, MRD switches his allegiance to the Democratic candidate for governor, Wade Hampton, who MRD believes is a moderate who advocates education for all voters.


Six are killed and many wounded when MRD and others speak at a large unruly rally near Cainhoy in Charleston County. Part of the crowd targeted MRD for backing the Democratic candidate. A reporter calls the armed and whiskey aided crowd as one of the most uncouth and rowdy in memory. MRD escapes unharmed.

Wade Hampton


Wade Hampton is elected partly due to swing vote support from blacks like MRD, and is placed on a special commission to decide the U.S. Presidential election, which left candidate Rutherford B. Hayes with enough popular votes, but short on the needed electoral votes. In exchange for pulling U.S. troops out of the south as sought by Hampton and other southerners on the commission, Hampton and the others in the southern bloc on the Commission back Hayes as the winner.


Governor Hampton gives MRD his job back again as trial justice, but the gains of Reconstruction begin to be methodically and permanently rolled back by the more conservative and violent elements of the state's political world headed by Ben Tillman.

Ben Tillman


MRD is removed from his reappointed post as trial justice as the moderates in government are pushed aside by the more extreme racist group now in control.

summer 1877

Charleston based blacks band together to sail again to Liberia to start anew with MRD as chairman of the finance committee of the Liberia Exodus Joint Stock Steamship Company.

early 1878

The company buys "the Azor" to set sail.


MRD serves as president of the board organizing the "Azor" expedition to Africa.


MRD publishes "The Origin of Races and Color" in Charleston, S.C. in response to Charles Darwin, expounding his views on the origins of racial color using a combination of scientific, archaeological and Biblical sources.


MRD's son, Charles Lenox Delany, drowns in the Savannah River.


MRD withdraws from the board of the "Azor" settlement voyage to Africa, his life dream. He realizes how much his family needs him, especially to pay for the college tuition of two of his children attending Wilberforce College. Mrs. Delany has been making ends meet doing seamstressing work.


MRD practices medicine in Charleston, SC.


MRD returns home with his family in Xenia, Ohio.


MRD dies of consumption.

Return to Home Page|Index