21 Facts About Benjamin Banneker


Benjamin Banneker was an African-American naturalist, mathematician, astronomer and almanac author.


Benjamin Banneker became known for assisting Major Andrew Ellicott in a survey that established the original borders of the District of Columbia, the federal capital district of the United States.


Benjamin Banneker corresponded with Thomas Jefferson on the topics of slavery and racial equality.


Benjamin Banneker became a folk-hero after his death, leading to many accounts of his life being exaggerated or embellished.


None of Benjamin Banneker's surviving papers describe a white ancestor or identify the name of his grandmother.


However, later biographers have contended that Benjamin Banneker's mother was the child of Molly Welsh, a former white indentured servant, and an African slave named Banneka.


The biographer suggested that Benjamin Banneker acquired this knowledge from Molly, as Benjamin Banneker was born after Banneka's death.

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In 1737, Benjamin Banneker was named at the age of 6 on the deed of his family's 100-acre farm in the Patapsco Valley in rural Baltimore County.


Around 1753, at about the age of 21, Benjamin Banneker reportedly completed a wooden clock that struck on the hour.


Benjamin Banneker appears to have modelled his clock from a borrowed pocket watch by carving each piece to scale.


Benjamin Banneker studied the mills and became acquainted with their proprietors.


In 1790, Benjamin Banneker prepared an ephemeris for 1791, which he hoped would be placed within a published almanac.


In 1796, Benjamin Banneker gave a manuscript of one of his almanacs to Suzanna Mason, a member of the Ellicott family who was visiting his home.


Benjamin Banneker kept a series of journals that contained his notebooks for astronomical observations, his diary and accounts of his dreams.


Marie-Jean-Antoine-Nicolas de Caritat, Marquis de Condorcet, to whom Jefferson sent Benjamin Banneker's almanac, was a noted French mathematician and abolitionist who was a member of the French Societe des Amis des Noirs.


When writing his letter, Benjamin Banneker informed Jefferson that his 1791 work with Andrew Ellicott on the District boundary survey had affected his work on his 1792 ephemeris and almanac by stating:.


Mr Benjamin Banneker is a prominent instance to prove that a descendant of Africa is susceptible of as great mental improvement and deep knowledge into the mysteries of nature as that of any other nation.


Jefferson's letter cited the letter that Benjamin Banneker had sent to him in 1791.


In 1987, a member of the Ellicott family, which had retained Benjamin Banneker's only remaining journal, donated that document and other Benjamin Banneker manuscripts to the Maryland Historical Society in Baltimore.


The family retained several items that Benjamin Banneker had used after borrowing them from George Ellicott, as well as some that Benjamin Banneker himself had owned.


Several such urban legends describe Benjamin Banneker's alleged activities in the Washington, DC, area around the time that he assisted Andrew Ellicott in the federal district boundary survey.