To Thomas Jefferson from Benjamin Banneker, 19 August 1791
From Benjamin Banneker
Maryland. Baltimore County. Near Ellicotts Lower Mills
August 19th: 1791
I am fully sensible of the greatness of that freedom which I take with you on the present occasion; a liberty which Seemed to me scarcely allowable, when I reflected on that distinguished, and dignifyed station in which you Stand; and the almost general prejudice and prepossession which is so prevailent in the world against those of my complexion.
I suppose it is a truth too well attested to you, to need a proof here, that we are a race of Beings who have long laboured under the abuse and censure of the world, that we have long been looked upon with an eye of contempt, and1 that we have long been considered rather as brutish than human, and Scarcely capable of mental endowments. Continue reading →
In 1753, Benjamin Banneker engineered the first striking clock made entirely of wooden parts. This invention marked the advent of his rise to fame as people would travel from far and near to witness his remarkable invention. Made entirely of hand carved wood parts and pinions, the clock struck on the hour for over 50 years.
Banneker was the first to track the 17 year locust cycle, a valuable revelation to farmers enabling them to prepare for attacks by locusts on their crops. He was among the first scientific farmers to employ crop rotation and water irrigation techniques. He enjoyed eviable results as a tobacco farmer, and harvested his own food crop.
Banneker was among the first Americans, and the first African-American, to publish almanacs, a valuable tool in an agricultural economy. His almanacs were publicly sold from 1792 to 1799, and did quite well. Continue reading →
Benjamin Banneker Scientist, Astronomer(1731–1806)
“The colour of the skin is in no way connected with strength of the mind or intellectual powers.”
Benjamin Banneker was a largely self-educated mathematician, astronomer, compiler of almanacs and writer.
Benjamin Banneker was born on November 9, 1731, in – what was later named – Ellicott’s Mills, Maryland. A free-born black man who owned a farm near Baltimore, Banneker was largely self-educated in astronomy and mathematics. He was later called upon to assist in the surveying of territory for the construction of the nation’s capital Washington D.C. He also became an active writer of almanacs and exchanged letters with Thomas Jefferson, politely challenging him to do what he could to ensure racial equality. Banneker died on October 9, 1806.
Dr. Elbert F. Cox: Distinction in Pure Mathematics
African-American mathematician and educator Elbert Frank Cox was born December 5, 1895, in Evansville, Indiana; he was the oldest of three boys born to Johnson D. Cox, an elementary school principal, and his wife, Eugenia D. Cox. Close-knit and highly religious, the Cox family had a respect for learning that mirrored the father’s educational career. When Cox demonstrated unusual ability in high school mathematics and physics, he was directed toward Indiana University. While at Indiana, he was elected to undergraduate offices and joined the Kappa Alpha Phi fraternity. Continue reading →
Elijah J. McCoy—an African-American inventor after whom the saying “the Real McCoy” gained popularity—was born May 2, 1843, in Colchester, Canada. He was one of 12 children of a family of runaway slaves who had used the Underground Railroad to escape from Kentucky. When he was 15, McCoy’s parents sent him to study mechanical engineering in Edinburgh, Scotland, training that was impossible for Blacks to get in the United States.
After finishing his schooling in Scotland, McCoy returned to the United States with the hope of obtaining an engineering job. He was forced to accept a job as a locomotive fireman with the Michigan Central Railroad, a position that required he shovel coal into the engine and apply oil to the moving parts of the machine. McCoy found the work unchallenging and sought other more productive forms of occupation. It had long been considered a problem that railroad engines were unable to lubricate themselves. Continue reading →
Doctor Alexa Canady: First Woman Neurosurgeon in America
Dr. Alexa Canady—the first Woman and the first African-American to become a neurosurgeon in America—was born November 7, 1950, in Lansing, Michigan, the daughter of Elizabeth Hortense (Golden) Canady and Clinton Canady, Jr. Her father was a graduate of the School of Dentistry of Meharry Medical College, practicing in Lansing. Her mother was a graduate of Fiasco University and was active for years in the civic affairs of Lansing. She also served as national president of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority.
Young Canady and her brother grew up outside Lansing and were the only two African American students in the entire school. Despite the obstacles, Canady was an exceptional student and was named a National Achievement Scholar in 1967. Continue reading →