Born into Freedom

A descendant of slaves, Benjamin Banneker was born on November 9, 1731, in Ellicott Mills, a small town outside Baltimore, Maryland. Molly Welsh, his grandmother, immigrated to the United States from England. She married a freed slave, Benjamin's grandfather, whose African name was Bannaka. Since she and Bannaka were both free, by law any children born to them would be free as well. The couple's eldest child, Mary, was Benjamin's mother, who married Robert, a former slave originally from Africa.

Benjamin grew up on the family farm and was taught to read from the Bible by his grandmother. At an early age, he displayed uncommon intelligence, caught onto ideas quickly, had a remarkable memory, and soon surpassed even his grandmother in his knowledge of the Scriptures. Having developed beyond what she could teach him, Molly made arrangements for Benjamin to attend a local school for boys, recently established by a Quaker schoolteacher. It was the schoolteacher who was responsible for changing Benjamin's surname from Bannaka to Banneker.

Unlike the other children, during his free time Benjamin was not interested in playing. Instead, he was obsessed by books and the fascinating things he learned every time he opened one. Even as a very young man, it was evident that Benjamin's quest in life was for knowledge.

Telescopes Mastery

Telescopes Mastery

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