This article details how John Greenleaf Whittier accidentally assumed two different Cuban poets of color (Juan Francisco Manzano and Plácido) were one and the same person, resulting in an unwittingly combinatory sketch of “Juan Placido.” The resulting syncretic personage in Whittier’s “The Black Man” (1845) became a cause célèbre for abolitionists. I argue that to effectively persuade his white Northern audience, Whittier rewrote his source texts into the sentimental registers of moral suasion and culturally decontextualized Juan Placido, transforming the “Cuban martyr poet” into a transnational race man. In the essay’s second half, I demonstrate how Martin R. Delany’s Blake (1859, 1861–62) readapted Whittier’s account to appeal to black radical abolitionists. By literarily resurrecting Juan Placido as an active revolutionary in the serial novel’s plot, Delany articulated not only a sophisticated theory of diasporic collaboration but also meditated on the stakes of fighting for black liberation by repeatedly employing accounts of black martyrdom.

You do not currently have access to this content.