Martin Delany, cat-lover


Four times in as many months, I’ve met somebody new-to-me and got on really well with them.  Then, at the end of our chat, they handed me their contact card – a little Vistaprint type card, or sometimes a postcard.  Since my aim is for me to get out and about much more, I decided to get a card done myself … and they arrived earlier in the week.  I’m very excited!  Or I was – a free metal cardholder was offered, to keep the cards fresh, and it didn’t come – and then I was excited again as there was a freephone number to ring if there were any problems.  Nowadays, if people provide a freephone number, you just know they’re serious about customer service.  And so it proved – I’ve just had an email confirming the little card holder is on its way.

The back of my card shows a quote from a man named Martin Delany:

“If we treated everyone we meet with the same affection we bestow upon our favorite cat, they, too, would purr.”

Martin Delany quote

What an amazing way of putting things!  Succint.  Humane.  Thoughtful.  Empathic.  He was quite a man, Martin Delany.  He was an African-American abolitionist, journalist and writer, born as early as 1812 in West Virginia, and born a slave: his father purchased the family’s freedom in 1823, when Martin was 11, then moved to Pennsylvania in search of a better life.


He had an amazing life: he published his own anti-slavery newspaper in the 1840s; he went to Harvard Medical School (but pressure on the faculty meant he was asked to leave after only a few months); stiill, he worked as a physician during cholera epidemics in Pittsburgh, when some qualified doctors had fled; he lived in Canada but returned from there to become an army officer for the North in the American Civil War, helping to recruit black soldiers, and afterwards worked for the Freedmen’s Bureau, helping freed slaves.   Thank goodness he lived to see the end of slavery: he died in Ohio in 1885.

And in spite of the hard life he led, born in slavery and constantly on the move, one of his most famous quotes is about treating everyone with respect and even love – the same love we give when we’re stroking a cat.  He was an astonishing man; he deserves to be up there with the great campaigners of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

Having a quote from a man like him on my card, is just a reminder that we can often see what people are really like by the way they treat animals.


This post was originally published two years ago.  Still true, though.

2 thoughts on “Martin Delany, cat-lover

    1. Aww, thank you smallholding sister! I was fascinated when I first read about Martin Delany, he sounds like he was a really special man.

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