According to his 1868 biography, in 1852 Martin Delany had been elected mayor of the Nicaraguan town of San Juan del Norte, a port attracting gold rush travelers, international capitalists, canal engineers, Miskito Indians, free African Americans, and British subjects. This claim was especially notable because Delany, the African American doctor, antislavery lecturer, journalist, and author, had never set foot in Central America. Mattox's essay examines archival accounts of the actual election that took place in San Juan del Norte, including items in the African American press; in the election, a “native and colored party” opposed the “Cotton” party, which included Anglo-Americans from the U.S. South. Mattox reads these accounts in context with addresses Delany gave on the topic of emigration and with two of his major published works: his multigenre The Condition, Elevation, Emigration, and Destiny of the Colored People of the United States (1852) and his serially published novel of circum-Caribbean slave insurrection, Blake (1859, 1861–62). Mattox argues that in an antebellum era marked by struggles over the rights of black Americans and by growing U.S. hemispheric claims, the attention of Delany and others in the United States to Nicaragua, a globally crucial location of transit, encompasses both the multiple ideologies of mobility and an expansive and contested definition of American nationality and citizenship.
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Jake Mattox; The Mayor of San Juan del Norte? Nicaragua, Martin Delany, and the “Cotton” Americans. American Literature 1 September 2009; 81 (3): 527–554. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00029831-2009-025
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