Indeed, the black man contributed the most towards the building of America. Black people made America great by their works and labour, sweat, and ingenuity. Since the American and world educational system has refused to recognize these contributions, it behoves us to teach the architectural, social and scientific achievements of these men. One of such men whose achievements have been underplayed is
In Stevie Wonder’s song titled “Black Man,” the Motown star sings of Benjamin Banneker: “first clock to be made in America was created by a black man.”
The song is a fitting salute to a great inventor and African Americans as a whole. It spoke about the genius of Benjamin Banneker and the many hats he wore. Benjamin Banneker was a farmer, mathematician, astronomer, author, and land surveyor.
Like a lot of inventors at the time, Benjamin Banneker was self-taught. Benjamin worked daily on the family tobacco farm and for some time, he received early education from a Quaker school. However, he acquired most of his advanced knowledge from reading.
At age 15, Benjamin took over the farm and came up with an irrigation system to direct the flow of water to the crops from nearby springs. As a result of his smart innovation, the farm flourished – even during times of drought.
However, it was his clock invention that really propelled his reputation. Sometime in the early 1750s, Benjamin borrowed a pocket watch from a wealthy friend. Then, he took the watch apart and studied its components.
After returning the watch, Benjamin then created a fully functioning clock of his own. Most surprising was the fact that he made the clock entirely out of carved wooden pieces. Surprisingly, the clock was accurate and would keep on ticking for decades. As a result of the attention Benjamin’s home-made clock received, he was able to set up his own business, where he repaired watches.
Benjamin Banneker’s accomplishments did not end as a clock maker. Deciding to learn further, he borrowed books on mathematics and astronomy from a friend. And from then, he engorged himself in the subjects. Putting his knowledge to use, Banneker accurately predicted a solar eclipse in 1789.
Early in the 1790s, Benjamin Banneker again added another skill to his resume as he became an author. Benjamin published his Almanac and Ephemeris of Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Maryland. He published the journal every year for over a decade. Even more, he sent a copy to the secretary of state Thomas Jefferson. Alongside the copy of the journal he sent to Thomas Jefferson was a letter urging the abolition of slavery.
Impressed by his abilities, Jefferson recommended Benjamin Banneker to be part of a surveying team that was to lay out Washington, D.C. Having been appointed to the three-man team by president George Washington, Benjamin Banneker ended up saving the project when the lead architect suddenly quit and took all the plans with him.
With the aid of his meticulous memory, Benjamin Banneker was able to recreate the plans off-hand. Benjamin Banneker wielded knowledge like a sword and was many things ranging from an inventor, to an author, and then to a scientist, and an anti-slavery proponent. Hence, his legacy lives on to this day.