Why Was This Letter So Controversial?

benjamin banneker in historical recreation live actor park and museum
Leslie Taylor-Grover
August 23, 2022

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. 

The result?

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.

We have a quick favor to ask:

PushBlack is a nonprofit dedicated to raising up Black voices. We are a small team but we have an outsized impact:

  • We reach tens of millions of people with our BLACK NEWS & HISTORY STORIES every year.
  • We fight for CRIMINAL JUSTICE REFORM to protect our community.
  • We run VOTING CAMPAIGNS that reach over 10 million African-Americans across the country.

And as a nonprofit, we rely on small donations from subscribers like you.

With as little as $5 a month, you can help PushBlack raise up Black voices. It only takes a minute, so will you please ?

Share This Article: