Michael Eric Dyson’s Black History Month All Stars

All-Star #14: Harold Delaney

Over the last several years in Philadelphia, we have witnessed the erection of the first monument to a Black man in our city, abolitionist Octavius Catto; the first mural to a legal and civic giant, A. Leon Higginbotham, Jr.; a community effort to rename a street from Taney — named for the Supreme Court justice who wrote the Dred Scott decision — for Caroline LeCount, Philly’s own Rosa Parks; and a school renamed from racist president Andrew Jackson to former slave-turned-educator Fanny Coppin Jackson.

Like these people, to me, the All Stars are the everyday folks who are doing the heavy lifting for their race and culture: Teachers, sanitation workers, people who work the traffic lights and run nurseries — both for kids and for your grass — the people who are clerks in local stores. They are the preachers who reach masses of people on a daily basis; the writers whose praises don’t get as well-sung as they should; the social activists who are out there trying to make a better life for us even when we don’t understand what’s at stake.

These are the people Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., referred to as the “ground crew without whose labor and sacrifices the jet flights to freedom could never have left the earth.”


Harold Delaney


Harold Delaney



Philadelphia native Harold Delaney is best known for his work on the Manhattan Project, but he was prolific in the fields of science and education. 

Delaney received both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in chemistry from Howard University, publishing multiple works in prestigious scientific journals, including the Journal of Organic Chemistry, throughout his academic career. He was a chemist for the Manhattan project, which led to the creation of the atomic bomb through the University of Chicago’s  Metallurgical “Met” Laboratory. After his time at UChicago ended in 1945, Delaney worked as an assistant professor of chemistry at North Carolina Agricultural & Technical University in Greensboro, North Carolina, and was a teacher and dean at Baltimore’s Morgan State University.

Delaney later served as the president of Manhattanville College in New York and as interim president for Chicago State and Bowie State universities.  


  • First male president of all womens Manhattanville College
  • Vice president of American Association of State Colleges
  • One of first graduate students to get a PhD in chemistry at Howard University

Final word:  “As an evaluator, he was (like he was virtually in all relationships) sympathetic to and understanding of what it was like to be in someone else’s situation, full of wisdom about challenges in higher education and about how they might be addressed—a careful, caring listener and sage adviser,” said Catherine Gira, president emerita of Frostville State University.

Reporting by Aly Kerrigan and Ethan Young.

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