Who was Benjamin Banneker?


“Black History Month” by Enokson is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

By: Julia Clavecillas, Reporter

Black History Month or African-American History Month is a time when people from all over the world observe and celebrate accomplishments of African-American history and the African diaspora. Black History Month takes place during February each year, and it’s officially recognized by the United States and Canada. Ireland, the United Kingdom, and the Netherlands also celebrate Black History Month, however, they observe it during October instead of February. Some of the famous figures that are honored during Black History Month include Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, Maya Angelou, and Harriet Tubman. Another person remembered during Black History Month is Benjamin Banneker.

“Benjamin Banneker” by crazysanman.history is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0 (Source: Picasa 2.7)

Benjamin Banneker was a renowned scientist, astronomer, mathematician, and inventor. He was a free African American man who was born to two freed slaves on November 9th, 1731, in Baltimore Maryland. Even from the beginning of his life, he was very interested in math and science. When he was 22 years old he created a wooden striking clock that would chime every hour. Although striking clocks have been made before, his clock may have been the first chiming clock built in the United States, and people came far and wide to see it. When he was older, Benjamin Banneker used his knowledge in astronomy to correctly anticipate the solar eclipse of 1789 and other space-related events. Banneker also helped to plan the layout and structure of Washington D.C. when it was being built.

His self-taught skills helped to create many other solutions and works. Benjamin Banneker wrote almanacs filled with information on various topics, like astronomical information, advice to others, and his discoveries about different types of medicine. He wrote to Thomas Jefferson, who was the Secretary of State at the time. Although Jefferson was a slave owner, Banneker implored him to stop any and all prejudice against black Americans in his letter. Banneker was tired and frustrated with how his reputation was largely revolving around how he was a person of color, and how his work was not appreciated without a comment about his background. His almanac proved and showed others that he was just as capable and intelligent as any white American.

Benjamin Banneker died on October 9th, 1806 on his farm in Oella, Maryland. Shortly after, his house, unfortunately, caught on fire and all the items and work inside were burned. Banneker lived an impressive life – He used his intelligence and skills to fight against racism and promote equality for everyone. As Black History Month comes to a close we should remember and celebrate the accomplishments made by Black and African-American individuals.

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