Dr. Martin Robison Delany
"Father of Pan-African Relations"
The 2020 Pan-African Development Conference recognizes the iconic life, work, and vision of Dr. Martin Robison Delany (1812-1885). Among other barrier-breaking accomplishments as a Black man of his era, Delany was an author, publisher, doctor, philosopher, explorer, geopolitical strategist, de facto diplomat and pan-Africanist.
While inevitable winds of the U.S. Civil War began to blow, Delany foresaw freedom in ways that contextualized Africa as a necessary extension of the Black experience in America. For him, his ancestral self-identity of being “African” was just as relevant and valuable as the political circumstances that ultimately transformed him into being “American.”
As a practitioner of his philosophy in 1865 he accepted President Abraham Lincoln’s bestowal as a commissioned major in the U.S. army, making him the highest-ranking Black field officer during the war. Yet, remarkably, on his own volition he had already traveled to Liberia and then Nigeria (1859-1860) where he signed a treaty to resettle African Americans in unoccupied Yoruba territories.
Upon his return, in further historic fashion, he published Official Report of the Niger Valley Exploring Party in 1861, which gave accounts of the atmosphere, minerals, soils, water conditions, livestock, vegetation, medicinal herbs, traditional remedies, malaria, hygiene and sanitation, servitude, family life, housing and city structures. This was done with intentionality to reconnect and work with Africans to both correct maladies and build on successes to demonstrate shared interests and development possibilities between Africa and the Diaspora.
In essence, Delany’s Official Report of the Niger Valley Exploring Party is arguably and comparatively a progenitor version of reports that are now complied by the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM). Moreover, Delany’s work in Africa was all part of a strategic process to create sustainable political, economic, and cultural ties for
pan-African integrations of Africa and the Diaspora, which is the very purpose and committed outcome of this 2020 Annual Pan-African Development
Conference, 159 years later.