Benjamin Banneker (November 9, 1731 – October 9, 1806) was a free African American scientist, surveyor, almanac author and farmer. Born in Baltimore County, Maryland to a free African American woman and a former slave, Banneker had little formal education and was largely self-taught. He is known for being part of a group led by Major Andrew Ellicott that surveyed the borders of the original District of Columbia, the federal capital district of the United States. Banneker’s knowledge of astronomy helped him author a commercially successful series of almanacs. He corresponded with Thomas Jefferson, drafter of the United States Declaration of Independence, on the topics of slavery and racial equality. Abolitionists and advocates of racial equality promoted and praised his works. Parks, schools, streets and other tributes have commemorated Banneker throughout the years since he lived.
However, many accounts of his life exaggerate or falsely attribute his works. In 1753 at the age of 22, Banneker completed a wooden clock that struck on the hour. He appears to have modeled his clock from a borrowed pocket watch by carving each piece to scale. The clock continued to work until Banneker’s death. At Ellicott’s Mills, Banneker made astronomical calculations that predicted solar and lunar eclipses for inclusion in his ephemeris. He placed the ephemeris and its subsequent revisions in a number of editions in a six-year series of almanacs which were printed and sold in six cities in four states for the years 1792 through 1797: Baltimore; Philadelphia; Wilmington, Delaware; Alexandria, Virginia; Petersburg, Virginia; and Richmond, Virginia. He also kept a series of journals that contained his notebooks for astronomical observations and his diary. The notebooks additionally contained a number of mathematical calculations and puzzles.
EL PAUL ANTRAX
Paul Cuffee (January 17, 1759 – September 9, 1817) was a Quaker businessman, Sea Captain, patriot, and abolitionist. He was of Aquinnah Wampanoag and African Ashanti descent and helped colonize Sierra Leone. Cuffee built a lucrative shipping empire and established the first racially integrated school in Westport, Massachusetts. A devout Christian, Cuffee often preached and spoke at the Sunday services at the multi-racial Society of Friends meeting house in Westport, Massachusetts. In 1813, he donated most of the money to build a new meeting house. He became involved in the British effort to resettle freed slaves, many of whom had moved from the US to Nova Scotia after the American Revolution, to the fledgling colony of Sierra Leone. Cuffee helped establish The Friendly Society of Sierra Leone, which provided financial support for the colony. At the time of his father’s death, young Cuffee knew little more than the alphabet but dreamed of gaining an education and being involved in the shipping industry.
The closest mainland port to Cuttyhunk was New Bedford, Massachusetts—the center of the American whaling industry. Cuffee used his limited free time to learn more about ships and sailing from sailors he encountered. Finally, at age 16, Paul Cuffee signed onto a whaling ship and, later on, cargo ships, where he learned navigation. In his journal, he now referred to himself as a mariner. In 1776 during the American Revolution he was captured and held prisoner by the British for 3 months in New York. After his release, Paul, who was still living with his siblings in Massachusetts, farmed and studied. In 1779, he and his brother David built a small boat to ply the nearby coast and islands. Although his brother was afraid to sail in dangerous seas, Cuffee went out alone in 1779 to deliver cargo to Nantucket. He was waylaid by pirates on this and several subsequent voyages. Finally, he made yet another trip to Nantucket that turned a profit.