Benjamin Banneker

Benjamin Banneker was born a free African American on November 9th, 1731, in Baltimore County, Maryland. Banneker was a Maryland tobacco farmer and later became a mathematician and astronomer. He was the only son of Robert Bannaky and Mary Bannaky, who were both former slaves. Banneker grew up on a family farm and was known for raising tobacco crops. His grandmother Molly Welsh was a white indentured servant from England. She taught the young Banneker to read, write, and count. Later, she sent Banneker to a small Quaker school.

In 1753, at the age of 21, Banneker created a “striking clock” made entirely of wood, which is believed to be the first clock built in America. People from other countries at that time visited his place just to see his invention. When his father died in 1759, Banneker started to manage the family farm alone. Eventually, Banneker found a new family, the Ellicotts, and built a relationship with George Ellicott who was studying mathematics and surveys to understand astronomy at that time. Ellicott taught Banneker what he learned, which led to Banneker's curiosity about the skies. Because of Banneker’s mathematical intelligence, he predicted eclipses of the sun using calculations and ultimately created an almanac in 1792. His name became famous through his almanac, which he sent to Thomas Jefferson, then Secretary of State. Accompanying the almanac to Jefferson, was a message from Banneker: “The Declaration of Independence said, ‘all men are created equal.’’’ Jefferson, in turn, thanked Banneker through a letter and sent Banneker’s almanac to a prominent Academy of Science in Paris.

Banneker continued to live on his farm until he died on October 9, 1806, at the age of seventy-five. On the day of his funeral, his house mysteriously burned down including the striking clock he kept for more than fifty years.



300 Oella Ave., Catonsville, Maryland, 21228