This Black History Month I’m Grateful for Benjamin Banneker
“The color of the skin is in no way connected with strength of
the mind or intellectual powers.”
America’s first widely acknowledged Black genius, Benjamin
Banneker was a gifted inventor, author and astronomer. In modern parlance,
Banneker would likely be described as an engineer. In fact, as a young man, he built an hourly
striking clock that worked for more than fifty years.
Today, Banneker is probably best remembered for helping
create the initial boundaries for Washington, DC. Banneker’s astronomical
observations were key to that project. Those observations also helped him
develop his highly regarded almanacs.
One of Banneker’s long term legacies is the critical role he
played in convincing Thomas Jefferson that Blacks could be the intellectual
equal of Whites. Banneker began a correspondence with Jefferson by providing
him with a copy of his almanac. Jefferson was so impressed that he forwarded
the almanac to friends. Banneker used his interactions with Jefferson to
convince the future President that American notions of equality were inauthentic
if they did not include Blacks. The most generous statements Jefferson ever
made about the potential of Black equality stemmed from his interactions with
Benjamin Banneker continues to serve as an example of the
range of Black thinkers. He maximized his possibilities in ways few thought
possible during his time.
Today I am grateful for Benjamin Banneker. You should be