Mercury’s surface is darker than that of the Moon. Iron-bearing minerals and submicroscopic metallic iron produced by space weathering are the primary known darkening materials on airless bodies. Yet Mercury’s iron abundance at the surface is lower than the Moon’s; another material is therefore likely to be responsible for Mercury’s dark surface. Enhanced darkening by submicroscopic metallic iron particles under intense space weathering at Mercury’s surface is insufficient to reconcile the planet’s low reflectance with its low iron abundance. Here we show that the delivery of cometary carbon by micrometeorites provides a mechanism to darken Mercury’s surface without violating observational constraints on iron content. We calculate the micrometeorite flux at Mercury and numerically simulate the fraction of carbonaceous material retained by the planet following micrometeorite impacts. We estimate that 50 times as many carbon-rich micrometeorites per unit surface area are delivered to Mercury, compared with the Moon, resulting in approximately 3-6 wt% carbon at Mercury’s surface (in graphite, amorphous, or nanodiamond form). Spectroscopic analysis of products of hypervelocity impact experiments demonstrates that the incorporation of carbon effectively darkens and weakens spectral features, consistent with remote observations of Mercury. Carbon delivery by micrometeorites provides an explanation for Mercury’s globally low reflectance and may contribute to the darkening of planetary surfaces elsewhere.