Benjamin Banneker: Letter to Thomas Jefferson

(1791)

Impact

Thomas Jefferson answered Benjamin Banneker’s letter within a few days, writing his reply on August 30, 1791. In this rather brief letter, Jefferson courteously thanks Banneker for his almanac and letter, adding,

No body wishes more than I do, to see such proofs as you exhibit, that nature has given to our black brethren talents equal to those of the other colors of men; and that the appearance of the want of them, is owing merely to the degraded condition of their existence, both in Africa and America.

He also writes that he would like to see their situation bettered, as far as it could be. The almanac, Jefferson tells Banneker, he has sent to Monsieur de Condorcet, secretary of the Academy of Sciences at Paris, “because I considered it as a document, to which your whole color had a right for their justification, against the doubts which have been entertained of them.” Jefferson does not comment further on either the almanac or the significant concerns in Banneker’s...

Image for: Benjamin Banneker: Letter to Thomas Jefferson

Mural of Benjamin Banneker and his achievements as surveyor, inventor, and astronomer (Library of Congress)

View Full Size