PLSO The Oregon Surveyor May/June 2022

27 of his work was completed by David Rittenhouse, a name many of us are familiar with. However, while Rittenhouse held Banneker’s work in high acclaim, he also qualified his statements with references to Banneker’s race. Rittenhouse is quoted as stating Banneker’s work was “a very extraordinary performance, considering the colour [sic] of the author.” To his credit and possibly at significant risk, Banneker publicly took offense at this and is quoted as saying, “I am annoyed to find that the subject of my race is so much stressed. The work is either correct or it is not. In this case, I believe it to be perfect.” Banneker repeatedly defended his accomplishments and took folks to task over qualifiers and references such as Rittenhouse’s who insisted on interjecting his race in their accolades. Banneker sent then Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson a copy of his almanac and took him to task in the accompanying letter over the hypocrisy of his slave ownership and forcing blacks into servitude. The White House history quotes Banneker as follows: “How pitiable is it to reflect, that altho you were so fully convinced of the benevolence of the Father of mankind, and of his equal and impartial distribution of those rights and privileges which he had conferred upon them…that you should at the Same time be found guilty of that most criminal act, which you professedly detested in others, with respect to yourselves.” [sic]—Benjamin Banneker to Thomas Jefferson, 1791 Nonetheless, Banneker was highly respected and was asked by Andrew Ellicott, George Washington’s cousin, to assist with the survey of the boundary of Washington, DC. At the time of the survey, The George Town Weekly Ledger in 1791 stated “[Ellicott] is attended by Benjamin Banniker [sic], an Ethiopian, whose abilities, as a surveyor, and an astronomer, While Banneker’s career as a surveyor was limited in time and experience, his additional contributions to math, science, astronomy, and publication of a groundbreaking almanac have earned him a significant place in American history. continues  Photo 3. Professional Land Surveyors of Oregon | The Lost Surveyor