Not So Fast, Angry Radical….

Jefferson’s only book… Notes on the State of Virginia, written while his beloved wife was dying, has earned him more condemnation than any other drop of ink the man put on paper.  Revisionist historians fixate on the physical and mental depiction of slaves- slaves Jefferson encountered in Virginia.  No one is comfortable with what is contained in those pages, the clumsy pseudo-science utilized by Jefferson is beneath a man of his intellectual stature.  Near the end of the chapter in question, Jefferson acknowledges the educational accomplishments of many free blacks.  A lover of fine culture, Jefferson criticized the poetry of Phillis Wheatley- something that many African History scholars cannot forgive.  Truth be told, Jefferson would have criticized any American poet as inferior, the talented Ms. Wheatley was up against our harshest critic:

“Misery is often the parent of the most affecting touches in poetry. — Among the blacks is misery enough, God knows, but no poetry.  Religion indeed has produced a Phyllis Wheately; but it could not produce a poet.”

No harsher critic

When answering an angry letter…. by the black mathematician and astronomer, Benjamin Banneker, Jefferson agreed with the calls for education and intellectual advancement for blacks in America:

“I thank you sincerely for your letter of the 19th. instant and for the Almanac it contained. 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 colours of men, & that the appearance of a want of them is owing merely to the degraded condition of their existence both in Africa & America. I can add with truth that no body wishes more ardently to see a good system commenced for raising the condition both of their body & mind to what it ought to be…”

There is a place for passion in the study of history… but it can only be useful if channeled properly.  Go forth and be erudite….

Don’t tread on me


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