Extract from Frederick Douglass’s Address to the Indian Industrial School in Carlisle, Pennsylvania

The intellect of the negro was then, as now, the subject of learned inquiry. Mr. Jefferson, among other statesmen and philosophers, while he considered slavery an evil, entertained a rather low estimate of the negro’s mental ability. He thought that the negro might become learned in music and in language, but that mathematics were quite out of the question with him. In this debate Benjamin Bannecker came upon the scene and materially assisted in lifting his race to a higher consideration than that in which it had been previously held ... Hearing of Mr. Jefferson’s opinion ... calmly addressed that statesman a letter and a copy of an almanac for which he had made the astronomical calculations. The reply of Mr. Jefferson is the highest praise I wish to bestow upon this black self-made man ... Jefferson was not ashamed to call the black man his brother and to address him as a gentleman.

Published in John W. Blassingame and John R. McKivigan, eds., Frederick Douglass Papers: Series One, Speeches, Debates, and Interviews (New Haven, 1979–1992), 5:566–7.
Date Range
March 1, 1893 to March 31, 1893