Thomas Jefferson took the position that Negroes were intellectually inferior, while Banneker, a Negro, took the position that we weren’t.
Needless to say, the whole idea is literally amazing considering that no one would propose an intellectual debate by letter with, say, a pigeon.
The fact that your debate opponent can counter your argument with words that you can read should have rendered this particular difference of opinion uselessly null and void.
What I wanna focus on here, however, is of course the fact that in penning the Declaration of Independence (the greater part of which he bit like a 2nd rate rapper from George Mason’s Virginia Declaration of Rights) Jefferson wrote the now infamous words “We hold these truths to be self evident that all men are created equal.”
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And he did that as a slave owner.
Now, before you say anything, I know that we’re expected to remember that Black people, in those days, weren’t considered to be really fully functioning human beings.
This, despite our ability to walk and talk and the laws that would eventually have to be put into place to prevent us from reading and congregating.
In this book I’m just about to finish reading, Founding Myths, the author argues that Abraham Lincoln tried to save Jefferson’s obvious conflict of words and deeds by suggesting during his own 1858 presidential debate against Stephen Douglas that Jefferson’s mandate had actually been a “promise” to be enacted by future generations.
Bollocks, I say.
For all his alleged “genius”, even Jefferson could never intellectually wriggle out of the fact that while he publicly espoused one ideology, he lived quite another.
Add to that the fact that Jefferson was boisterously apposed to “race-mixing” while fathering six children with his slave Sally Hemings and you’ve got a character perfectly suited for American political office.
It’s almost a shame that the Tea Party can’t resurrect him to run him against Barack in 2012.