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Celebrating Black Heroes: Benjamin Banneker

(1731-1806)

We’re celebrating black heroes who made history, and I want to introduce you to Benjamin Banneker, a mathematician, astronomer, compiler of almanacs, inventor, and writer. Banneker was a freeman in the slave state of Maryland and was raised on a farm near Baltimore. He was largely self-educated from books that he would borrow and read. 

Around twenty years old, Banneker built a wooden clock that kept precise time.

Around twenty years old, Banneker built a wooden clock that kept precise time. It is noted to be the first clock wholly made in the United States and kept perfect time even until after his death in 1806. Shortly after, he was encouraged to study astronomy, which he also excelled in. By 1788, he began making astronomical calculations, and he accurately predicted a solar eclipse that occurred in 1789. From there, he began making other astronomical observations including predicting other solar eclipses ten years ahead of time.

Banneker’s most significant accomplishment was working on the surveying team and designing the layout for Washington D.C.

Banneker’s most significant accomplishment was working on the surveying team and designing the layout for Washington D.C. and engaging with some of the country’s founders in a way no black man had before. Furthermore, as a freeman, he opposed slavery and advocated civil rights—continually sending letters to U.S. leaders, asking for aid in bringing about better conditions for African Americans. 

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