Mar 21, 2024 - Sale 2663

Sale 2663 - Lot 46

Price Realized: $ 4,500
?Final Price Realized includes Buyer’s Premium added to Hammer Price
Estimate: $ 7,000 - $ 10,000
BENJAMIN BANNEKER. His famous correspondence with Thomas Jefferson, as published in an issue of the Universal Asylum and Columbian Magazine. Pages [217]-287. 8vo, disbound; minimal wear and toning. Philadelphia: William Young, October 1792

Additional Details

African-American scientist Benjamin Banneker (1731-1806) is best known today for the annual almanacs he published in Baltimore. In an effort to promote his first almanac, he sent a draft to Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson, also a man of science, and received a thoughtful response. Their exchange was published in the Virginia Gazette, and is here reprinted on pages 222-224. Banneker starts by noting "the almost general prejudice and prepossession which is so prevalent in the world against those of my complexion. . . . We are a race of beings who have long labored under the abuse and censure of the world." He compares his race's quest for freedom to the efforts Jefferson and other patriots made during the recent Revolution, and concludes by sending a manuscript of his astronomical calculations "that you might also view it in my own hand-writing."

Jefferson responds: "Nobody wishes more than I do, to see such proofs as you exhibit, that nature has given to our black brethren, talents equal to those of the other colours of men; and that the appearance of the want of them is owing merely to the degraded condition of their existence, both in Africa and America." He hopes for the means to educate African-Americans "as fast as the imbecility of their present existence, and other circumstances which cannot be neglected, will admit." He calls Banneker's almanac "a document to which your whole colour had a right, for their justification against the sentiments which have been entertained of them." Later in the magazine are Jefferson's "Remarks on the Constitution of the United States."