This is your 2nd Blog, so do the best you can. Students should use the class readings like Call & Response and moodle sources : Investigate: A free African American named Benjamin Banneker wrote to our Founding Father Thomas Jefferson in 1791. Please Discuss what was Banneker’s correspondence about and what was he seeking to accomplish? How did Thomas Jefferson react to Banneker’s correspondence and did it impact Jefferson’s belief system about African Americans? In addition, what was the social and political condition of most African Americans around the time period of 1791. In the end, in your opinion did you think that Banneker received the results or reaction he wanted to his letter from our Founding Father Thomas Jefferson?
In 1791 Benjamin Banneker, the son of former slaves, wrote to Thomas Jefferson, at the time the first Secretary of State, Founding Father and author of the Declaration of Independence to argue against slavery. Benjamin thought that Thomas Jefferson did not share the toxic and racist views that so many others of that time did. Benjamin goes on to say “you are a man far less inflexible in sentiments of this nature, than many others; that you are measurable friendly and well disposed towards us; and that you are willing and ready to lend your aid and assistance to our relief, from those many distresses, and numerous calamities, to which we are reduced.”
In his letter Benjamin, uses Christianity, the American revolution, Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights as examples of documents where it is stated that “all men are created equal” except the slaves of that time. He also includes an almanac of that year.
Thomas Jefferson for his part, responded to Benjamin Banneker’s letter in a very polite manner he expressed the desirability of “such proofs as you exhibit…talents equal to those of other colors of men.” He does not comment on the almanac or make any specific reference to Banneker’s letter. Although there are public records of Thomas Jefferson’s misgivings about slavery and the trans-Atlantic slave trade, he personally owned and sold somewhere around seven hundred slaves. Not to mention Jefferson’s decades long relationship with one of his most famous slaves, Sally Hemings, who had six of his children.
The social and political condition of most African American around 1791 was oppressive.
In 1790 Congress denies citizenship to anyone who is not a free white and in that same year it explored expanding slavery to the southwest. As a frame of reference Harriet Tubman and the underground rail road would not come around for another 59 years, in the 1850’s.
In my opinion I do not think Benjamin Banneker got what he wanted from Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson seemed to be entertaining him, just responding to the letter to say that he did. It is evident in Jefferson’s personal life that he did not explicitly believe that African Americans and their white counterparts were equal. If Benjamin had change or challenged Jefferson’s mind or attitude towards slaves, Jefferson could have implemented laws that helped enslaved African Americans be liberated. Jefferson at the timing of this letter was secretary of state, and had drafted the Declaration of Independence, all the while having slaves. He was a highly influential man who could have seeked to abolish slavery before even Abraham Lincoln.