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American Black History Month: Benjamin Banneker (1731-1806)

on Mon, 02/01/2016 - 17:07

Benjamin Banneker was a self-taught inventor, scientist, mathematician, almanac author, surveyor, humanitarian and farmer. Banneker, a descendant of enslaved Africans, was born free in Maryland and taught to read by his grandmother as a young boy. A natural mathematician and inventor, Banneker, in his early 20s, created a working clock made almost entirely out of wood and without any instruction.

Benjamin Banneker was also an advocate to eradicate slavery. In 1791, he boldly wrote to Thomas Jefferson, then Secretary of State, to scold him and others of hypocrisy in drafting the Declaration of Independence. He quoted Jefferson's words stating that, "all men are created equal" saying, "in detaining by fraud and violence so numerous a part of my brethren under groaning captivity and cruel oppression, 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." Banneker also demanded Jefferson and other Declaration of Independence participants to, "wean yourselves from those narrow prejudices which you have imbibed with respect to" African Americans. 

In 1791, Benjamin Banneker published his first calculated ephemeris (table of the position of celestial bodies) Almanac which included literature, commentary and other innovative political and humanitarian filler information. Banneker went on to produced five additional almanacs, and in the 1793 edition he published his correspondence to Thomas Jefferson and included anti-slavery poems, speeches and essays.

Interested in learning more? Search ((benjamin banneker) WN ALL), 1785-2016 in Engineering Village using the Inspec database.