Benjamin Banneker Calls Out Thomas Jefferson
He took the Founding Father to task on slavery
Benjamin Banneker was born in Baltimore in 1730 to a free African-American woman and former slave. Benjamin was self-educated and became an expert in astronomy, eventually helping to complete the first land surveys of Washington, D.C. He’s also known for writing a series of successful almanacs.
In 1791, Banneker made the bold decision to write a letter to Thomas Jefferson, calling out the statesman who had once famously asserted that “all men are created equal” for his support of slavery. He basically told Jefferson that he and other supporters of slavery were violent criminals — but he did so pretty respectfully.
Jefferson brushed off Banneker’s letter with a polite response and would later disparage him in letters he wrote to a friend. But it doesn’t matter. Benjamin Banneker will go down in history for bravely calling out hypocrisy and championing equality in a time when Black men had little voice.
Check out other stories from the past:
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- Rebel poet Phillis Wheatley
- Unstoppable pioneer woman Mary Fields
- Media mogul John H. Johnson
- Chain-breaker Robert Smalls