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A Great Man, but Flawed
[FINAL Edition]
The Washington Post (pre-1997 Fulltext) - Washington, D.C.
Date: Oct 31, 1992
Start Page: a.21
Section: OP/ED

Harold E. Wefald's defense of Thomas Jefferson's racial views {"Don't Knock Thomas Jefferson," Free for All, Oct. 24} goes too far. Wefald writes that when Jefferson received a letter and almanac from Benjamin Banneker, Jefferson was "honest enough to change his position." Jefferson did not say that he had changed his opinion of the intellectual abilities of blacks. In his letter to Banneker, Aug. 30, 1791, Jefferson merely said: "No body 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 colors of men, and that the appearance of a want of them is owing merely to the degraded condition of their existence, both in Africa & America." Closely read, Jefferson's letter is only an indication that he "wishes to see such proofs," but there is no definite indication that he changed his mind. On Banneker's abilities Jefferson was ambivalent.

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