The Good and the Beautiful is proud to celebrate Black History Month, which was given national recognition in 1976. Every United States president since has designated each February as an opportunity to honor the historical and current achievements of black Americans. We are honoring these important figures in our history today by sharing the story of Benjamin Banneker, along with free printable PDF activities in honor of his life and Black History Month.
Unlike most black men in the United States in those years, Benjamin Banneker was born free in 1731. His parents (a formerly enslaved man and the daughter of a mixed-race couple) owned a very large and successful tobacco farm where Benjamin grew up and enjoyed working. They suffered from prejudice and alienation, as it was not common for black people to own property.
As a child, Benjamin’s grandmother taught him to read and instilled in him a love of books. He attended school alongside both white and black children, something very uncommon at the time. He was smart and loved math. Clocks were also quite uncommon, but Benjamin hand-carved and developed his own clock when he was just in his 20’s.
As he grew up, Benjamin Banneker studied astronomy, became a great scientist, and tried to help end slavery. He learned how to survey the land from a man named Andrew Ellicot. To survey land is to measure and map it, which was an especially important job in Colonial America, the time period when Benjamin lived. He had a significant role during the building of the US capital city in Washington, DC, and then wrote an almanac with facts about the stars, natural medicines, and more.
Benjamin worked hard during his life to further the opportunities and recognition for black Americans. His dream was for everyone to be recognized not for the color of their skin, but for their personal qualities and who they were as people. He spoke up for equality and continues to be honored as an amazing, dedicated person who impacted US and black history!
For a closer look at Benjamin Banneker’s life, visit this page, which is a document from the White House Historical Association.
Download your free PDF of Black History Month activities below!