Aside from being a free Black man during a time in this country when most of our people were enslaved, Benjamin Banneker was also a genius. He designed, invented, and engineered so well that even the most racist of Americans respected his work.
That was the problem.
ONLY Banneker’s work was respected, not his personhood. So he decided to publicly challenge the biggest hypocrite in the white leadership of this country, Thomas Jefferson.
Jefferson squawked about all men being equal and free, but still enslaved our people and considered us inferior to whites.
Banneker took the two-faced forefather to task in a letter that went viral. He pointed out that his own genius disproved Black inferiority, and he called for Jefferson to end slavery and to mandate that all men could TRULY be free!
Banneker’s public challenge of the powerful white man was unheard of! On top of that, he said what he said! His letter was forceful and did not sugarcoat his demand for Jefferson to end slavery.
We already know that white allyship can be performative. Jefferson wrote a short response saying Banneker was right – but put zero actions behind his words. Meanwhile, Banneker’s letter inspired millions to seek the abolition of slavery. In our fight for liberation, we must always keep speaking truth to power.