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They were sure that people would rush to buy his almanac. People would want to see what an African American could write. But soon, he saw how his almanac might help other blacks.

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On August 19, , he sent Thomas Jefferson a copy of the almanac and a letter. Jefferson was the secretary of state at the time. In the letter, Benjamin wrote that he was proud to be of the African race. He challenged Jefferson to think differently about blacks. He thought African Americans were brave and faithful servants. But he did not think blacks had deep feelings and great minds. Jefferson thought slavery was evil and harmed both slaves and masters. He did not think whites and blacks could live together. He suggested that African Americans should be sent away to another country.

Benjamin offered his almanac as proof that blacks and whites are equal. It took courage for Banneker to write to a powerful man like Jefferson. He did not expect Jefferson to reply to his letter.

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But Jefferson did. On August 30, Jefferson wrote a letter to Benjamin. Jefferson welcomed proof that blacks are equal to other people. He wrote that he wanted to improve life for blacks. Jefferson wrote this letter to Benjamin on August 30, This was a great honor. People would now learn about Benjamin and his almanac. The almanac was first printed in Baltimore.

It sold many copies. McHenry wrote that Banneker was a free black and had done the ephemeris for the almanac. This, he said, was proof that African Americans had great minds and talents.

James McHenry was born in Ireland. He came to the United States to work as an army doctor. He stayed in Maryland and served for many years as a politician. It had dates for eclipses of the sun. Weather forecasts and dates for yearly feasts were also included. Readers also saw a tide table for the Chesapeake Bay and home treatments for illnesses.

They learned the names of Supreme Court judges. Travelers stopped by his house. They wanted to speak to him and see his clock and worktable.


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Benjamin welcomed them into his home. There were fewer spelling rules in the s. For example, the word almanac was sometimes spelled with a k on the end. Benjamin published six almanacs from to In his Almanack, he included the letters sent between Thomas Jefferson and himself. The cover of the Almanac had a woodcut portrait of Benjamin. His Almanac told about the yellow fever illness that struck Philadelphia in For some almanacs, Benjamin wrote essays about slavery. He wrote that slavery was wrong and should be stopped. His slavery essays put his life in danger. This portrait of Benjamin appeared on the cover of the Almanac.

They needed slaves to work tobacco and cotton fields. Benjamin must have feared some of his slaveholding neighbors. As an old man, he often had nightmares. He recorded the weather and the movements of the sun and the moon. He wrote about his dreams in his journal. He was too old to grow tobacco. But he kept a small garden, a fruit orchard, and beehives. He let the local boys pick fruit from his orchard. But the boys stripped all the fruit off the trees!

He still lived alone and made his own meals. But two of his sisters helped with the laundry and other chores. So he rented some of the land to neighbors. But he had trouble collecting the rent. Sometimes, he forgot to collect it. Other times, his neighbors did not pay. A few times, he demanded that his neighbors pay the rent.


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  • Then they threatened him. In his journal, he once wrote that someone stole his horse and coat. Another time, he wrote that someone wanted to murder him. That person warned him not to let anyone in his house after dark. At times, he heard gunshots outside his cabin.

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    Benjamin lived in the cabin that his parents built at Stout. It may have looked like the cabin in this picture. By , Benjamin had sold the rest of his land to the Ellicotts. But they still let him live in his cabin. At night, he wrapped himself in his cloak. He kept looking at the stars.

    He thought about other planets where people might be living. Many were math puzzles. It tells of a servant getting money pounds to buy animals.

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    The servant was to spend 5 pounds for each bull, 20 shillings for each cow, and 1 shilling for each sheep. If 20 shillings equals 1 pound, how many of each animal did he buy? Answer on page He watched the bees working in the hive and collected math puzzles. He wrote often in his journal.