Education didn’t come easy to Black people in the 1700s, even to those who were free. This was the case for Benjamin Banneker, a man born free who worked on his family’s farm when he came of age.
But Banneker soon discovered his genius. And he found ways to nurture it.
Though he briefly attended a Quaker school, he was primarily self-taught. By reading and reading and reading some more, he became an expert in various disciplines, including astronomy and math. He even wrote several almanacs.
But his biggest invention came in the early 1750s.
After taking apart a pocket watch and meticulously studying its intricacies, Banneker created a marvelous clock - fully functioning and carved completely out of wood! The world lost it over his wooden clock invention, thrusting Banneker into the limelight.
With a flourishing reputation, Banneker was recommended by then-Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson to participate in a huge project: the construction of Washington, D.C.
The surveys he conducted laid out the groundwork for the nation’s capital, and led to an exchange of letters between him and Jefferson, wherein Banneker challenged him to fight for racial justice.
When you have a gift, you have to find a way to nurture it. Despite having no formal education, Benjamin Banneker found different avenues to nurture his genius. By doing so, he made a lasting impact on history.