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Martin Delany: Labor, Ecology, and Black Freedom

by Alex Moskowitz

This essay asks what it would mean to think through Martin Delany’s political commitments as being deeply intertwined with science, ecology, and labor. I turn mainly to Delany’s writing in the lesser-known Official Report of the Niger Valley Exploring Party (1861) to consider the interconnectedness of culture and science, the human and the non-human, and labor and the natural world. I argue that throughout his work, Delany is interested in developing an antiracist science: a science that also includes the science of political economy—as is evident in a number of short articles titled “Political Economy” and “Domestic Economy” that Delany wrote and published in The North Star in 1849. This science of political economy reemerges in the Official Report and in Delany’s only novel, Blake; or, the Huts of America (1861), as an antiracist science that is built out of an ecological relation between people, the land, and the environment. Ultimately, this essay aims to identify a few key points that might help us reconsider Delany as an African American nature writer, and by doing so, to help open up new avenues for thinking about the politics of his work.


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