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Benjamin Banneker Essay, Research Paper

Benjamin Banneker was one the best-known black people in early United States history. He was an astronomer, farmer, mathematician and surveyor. He contributed greatly to the rise of African Americans in science.

Benjamin Banneker was born in 1731 near Baltimore. His grandmother, an Englishwoman, taught him how to read and write. For many year he attended a small school open to blacks and whites. There he developed an interest in mathematics and science. Later, while farming, he pursued his mathematical studies and taught himself astronomy. In 1753 he completed a clock built entirely of wood. He carved each gear by hand. His only models were a pocket watch and a picture of a clock. The clock kept almost perfect time for over 50 years.

In 1791, Banneker was an assistant to Major Andrew Ellicott, the surveyor appointed by President George Washington to lay out the boundaries of the District of Columbia. Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson had recommended Banneker for this work.

From 1791 to 1796, Benjamin made all the astronomical and tide calculations and weather predictions for a yearly almanac. Benjamin sent Jefferson a copy of his first almanac. With it he sent a letter calling for the abolition of slavery and a liberal attitude towards blacks. His skills impressed Jefferson and Jefferson sent a copy of the almanac to the Royal Academy of Sciences in Paris as evidence of the talent of blacks. Opponents of slavery in the United States and England also used the almanacs as evidence of the abilities of black people.

The publishers of Benjamin Banneker?s almanacs printed contributions by prominent Americans in addition to his material. In the 1793 almanac, for example, the surgeon and statesman Benjamin Rush proposed the appointment of Secretary of Peace. Banneker probably contributed a few proverbs, essays, and poems to the almanac. Benjamin Banneker died in 1806.

Overall, Benjamin Banneker was and still is a very important person in not only the African American history, but also the American history of the United States. His almanacs are still used and studied because of his unavailable knowledge today. He represents intellectual African Americans with honor. He was a great person and he had many great achievements in his lifetime.


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