Timeline Description: Benjamin Banneker was an almanac author, mathematician, astronomer, farmer, and surveyor. He was a free African American who was praised by abolitionists for his work advocating for racial equality. He was mostly self-taught. His knowledge of astronomy helped him to successfully write a series of almanacs. He has been referred to as "the First Negro Man of Science."
|November 9, 1731||Benjamin Banneker is born in Maryland.
Benjamin Banneker is born in Baltimore County, Maryland to Robert, an ex-slave and Mary, the daughter of an Englishwoman and an African ex-slave. Benjamin is one of a couple hundred free blacks among a population of nearly 4000 slaves and 13,000 whites.
|1753||Banneker constructs a striking clock.
Benjamin Banneker uses mostly wood to construct a clock. The only two timepieces Banneker had seen were a pocket watch and a sundial. He bases his designs on his own drawings and calculations. The clock runs for 40 years until it is destroyed in a fire.
|1759||Banneker's father dies.
After the death of his father, Banneker lives with his mother and sisters and helps take care of the family farm.
|1771||Banneker becomes friends with the Ellicott brothers.
Banneker becomes close friends with George and Joseph Ellicott. The brothers encourage Banneker to learn astronomy and mathematics. They loan him books and instruments for observing the stars. Banneker is able to teach himself astronomy and advanced mathematics.
|1775||Banneker inherits the family farm.
Banneker's mother dies, leaving him in charge of the family farm. He constructs a "work cabin" with a skylight on the farm to study the stars and make calculations.
|1788||Banneker predicts a solar eclipse.
Banneker uses the tools and books loaned to him by the Ellicott brothers to predict a solar eclipse. His prediction is nearly accurate and he later discovers that the error was not due to a miscalculation on his part but rather a discrepancy in his expert sources.
|February 1791||Banneker becomes an assistant in the survey of the District of Columbia.
Banneker is hired by Major Andrew Ellicott, cousin of the Ellicott brothers, to assist in surveying land along the Potomac River in Washington, D.C.. Pierre L'Enfant, the architect in charge of planning, is suddenly dismissed from the project and took the plans with him. Banneker is able to recreate the plans from memory saving the U.S. government a lot of time and money having to re-design the city.
|April 1791||Banneker leaves the survey position.
Banneker leaves the survey project due to illness and difficulties completing the survey. He returns to his home to work on his ephemeris. An ephemeris is a table of the position of celestial bodies.
|1792||Banneker publishes the first of his almanacs.
Banneker's almanacs are based on his calculated ephemeris. The almanacs also include literature, commentaries, and fillers that have a humanitarian and political nature. The almanacs are released in a number of editions over a six-year period from 1792 through 1797. The almanacs are sold in six cities in four states.
|1793||Banneker's almanac includes letters from Thomas Jefferson.
Banneker writes to Thomas Jefferson, secretary of state, to criticize Jefferson for his proslavery stance. Jefferson writes a response to Banneker acknowledging receipt of his letter. Both letters are published in Banneker's 1793 almanac.
|1793||Banneker receives support from abolitionist societies in Maryland and Pennsylvania.
Banneker's outspoken views on slavery earn him recognition from the abolitionist societies in Maryland and Pennsylvania. He receives help from both Maryland and Pennsylvania in publishing his almanacs.
|1797||Banneker's last almanac is published.
Due to declining sales, Banneker's last almanac is published.
|1797||Banneker sells his family farm.
Banneker sells off part of the family farm in Maryland and gives the rest to the Ellicott brothers in exchange for a small pension.
|October 9, 1806||Banneker dies.
Banneker dies in his small cabin in Baltimore, Maryland. He is buried at the family burial grounds near the home.
|1977||A commemorative obelisk is erected.
The Maryland Bicentennial Commission and the State Commission on Afro American History and Culture erect a commemorative obelisk for Banneker, which stands near his unmarked grave in an Oella, Maryland, church.