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Benjamin Banneker Posters, Books, Video, Links for Learning
for the science and social studies classrooms, home schoolers.

social studies > black history > BENJAMIN BANNEKER < notable men < astronomy < science

Benjamin Banneker, the Sable Astronomer
Benjamin Banneker,

Benjamin Banneker, the son and grandson of former slaves, was born November 9, 1731, Baltimore Co., Maryland.

Benjamin was a self motivated learner, always curious about how things worked. Although he had a limited amount of formal education and lived as a modest farmer, his intellect was recognized by his family and neighbors.

One of the best loved stories about Benjamin is that as a young man he took apart a watch, drew detailed pictures of each part, put the watch back together, and then used his drawings to reproduce, on an enlarged scale, the watch parts in wood to make a clock that kept accurate time. He returned the borrowed watch in working order.

Benjamin Banneker, Black Heritage Postage Stamps
Benjamin Banneker, Black Heritage Postage Stamps

Called the “Sable Astronomer” because of his study of astronomy, Benjamin compiled the ephemeris (information table) for annual almanacs published 1792 through 1797, predicting solar and lunar eclipses. He also provided assistance in the planning of the Federal District, which is now Washington, DC, by making sure the astronomical clock was keeping accurate time.

Banneker died Sunday, October 9, 1806, age 74. The U.S. Postal Service issued a postage stamp in his honor in 1980.

Celebrate Black History

Benjamin Banneker, the Sable Astronomer
Benjamin Banneker,

Free-born descendent of slaves, Banneker achieved remarkable mathematical and scientific successes in late eighteenth-century America. As a young man, he built a wooden clock and solved both recreational and practical mathematical puzzles. Learning from borrowed books throughout his life, Banneker was chosen for a role in surveying the boundary of the District of Columbia. A self-taught astronomer, he constructed almanacs and corresponded with Thomas Jefferson over them. This colorful poster features a portrait of Banneker and highlights his mathematical and scientific accomplishments.

The Colour of the Skin, Giclee Print
The Colour of the Skin, Giclee Print

The Colour of the Skin

“The colour of the skin is in no way connected with strenth of the mind or intellectual powers.” Benjamin Banneker

skin & sense of touch posters
color posters

Star Chart Poster
Star Chart Poster

Clock with Astronomical and Astrological Dials by Thomas Starck, 1620
Clock with Astronomical and Astrological Dials by Thomas Starck, 1620

• more Mathematicians posters
• more Astronomers posters

African American Inventors in Math & Science 6 poster set - includes Sarah E. Goode, Norbert Rillieux, Elijah McCoy, May Edward Chin, Evelyn Granville, Benjamin Banneker
• “The color of the skin is in no way connected with the strength of the mind or intellectual powers.”
• “Presumption should never make us neglect that which appears easy to us, nor despair make us lose courage at the sight of difficulties.”
• “Evil communication corrrupts good manners. I hope to live to hear that good communication corrects bad manners.”

Books about Benjamin Banneker

Molly Bannaky by Alice McGill, Chris K. Soentpiet (Illustrator) - The story of Benjamin Banneker’s grandmother, the woman who escaped a death sentence in England because she could read and became an indentured servant in Colonial Maryland.

Benjamin Banneker: Astronomer and Mathematician by Laura Baskes Letwin - a superb job of recreating life in Benjamin Banneker’s time. Any young person, but especially an African-American, will be thrilled by this fine and historically accurate biography of a self-taught free black man who helped create our nation’s capital and who corresponded with Thomas Jefferson about slavery.

Benjamin Banneker: Surveyor, Astronomer, Publisher, Patriot by Charles A. Cerami - author mines the available data, eschews the apocryphal, capturing completely is the flowering genius of a largely home-schooled boy wonder, exhibiting mathematical wizardry while devouring the Bible, Plato, and Epictetus.

The Life of Benjamin Banneker: The First African American Man of Science by Silvio A. Bedini - authoritative biography of Banneker will be welcomed by those interested in the history of American science as well as students of black history.

World’s Great Men of Color by J. A. Rogers - a comprehensive account of the great Black personalities in world history.

And Math

The Grapes of Math by Greg Tang, Harry Brigg - How is it possible to count a complicated pattern of strawberry seeds or grapes on a vine or camel humps - in a blink of an eye? If children can open their minds to new ways of perceiving math, anything is possible! Greg Tang shows readers creative ways to use patterns and combinations of numbers to solve math puzzles quickly and effectively.

And look at Mortensen Math - This method where students learn mathematics by seeing, touching and moving colorful blocks and tiles, has been instrumental in producing America’s top mathematics students. Children using this method grow up loving math. There is never any fear or failure. (and see more education resources on our Maria Montessori pages)

And Time

Times Pendulum: From Sundials to Atomic Clocks, the Fascinating History of Timekeeping and How Our Discoveries Changed the World by Jo Ellen Barnett- Drawing from many disciplines, the author has conducted a sweeping survey of our relationship with time, from our earliest attempts to measure and understand it to our more recent breakthroughs with carbon dating and atomic clocks.

Want to know more about time?- visit the Long Now site.


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last updated 10/12/13