The Real Story Behind America’s First Federal Monuments
“He writes to Jefferson saying that he freely and clearly acknowledges that he is of African race,” said Audrey Davis, director of the Alexandria Black History Museum. “He was proud of his race and color. He was a math whiz, a watchmaker and he was into riddles.” He has also published six farmers’ almanacs, using scientific methods. “He was a Renaissance man.”
Jefferson replied: “No one wishes more than I to see proofs such as those which you present, that nature has given to our black brothers, talents equal to those of the other colors of men, and that the appearance of a lack of between them is due simply to the degraded conditions of their existence both in Africa and in America.”
If the exchange changed Jefferson’s position on his view of African Americans and slavery, Banneker was the only one black man to challenge the suspicions of inequality of the future president during his lifetime.
Banneker died soon after, aged 74 in 1806. He never married and had no children. Although personal ties were lost until the recent shock to the descendants of the Banneker family by DNA testing, his scientific contributions to the United States are remarkable and unwavering.
But it’s the crumbling bollards that still adorn the capital that serve as a daily reminder of Banneker’s contributions to all who pay attention.
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