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Benjamin Banneker Essay

1985 words - 8 pages

Benjamin Banneker grew up as a free black man in colonial America. The Banneker family was slightly outcast from the Baltimore County community because of their mixed heritage. Solitude did not upset young Banneker because it gave him an opportunity to teach himself and learn about the nature surrounding him. The author, Charles Cerami, demonstrates how Banneker was a highly intelligent man who did not allow the negative views of society to hold him back from achieving greatness.Benjamin Banneker was born November 9, 1731 in Baltimore County, Maryland to Robert and Mary Banneky. Robert was a free slave from Guinea. Mary was the daughter of Molly Welsh and Banneka (Cerami 4). Molly Welsh was an Englishwoman sent to the colonies as an indentured servant. After serving her time, she bought two slaves to help on her farm. Banneka was one of them and was freed by Molly before their marriage. Historians believe that Banneka was a prince from the Dogon tribe in West Africa (5).Banneker and his sisters were raised on their grandparents' tobacco farm while their parents worked to purchase their own plantation named Stout (28). As a young child Banneker loved learning, and his grandmother taught him to read using her family Bible. This piece of literature had a great influence on the style and dialect of Banneker's writings and can be seen in his almanacs and essays written during his life (16). When Banneker was about seven or eight years old, a Quaker schoolteacher named Peter Heinrich came to live in area and set up a school (17). Banneker was permitted to attend the school and learned how to write and do simple arithmetic. His love for math and learning grew. He was extremely studious. Schoolmates described Banneker as "never fond of play or light amusement" (26). "All he liked was to dive into books" (26). Unfortunately, Banneker could not attend school for long due to his increasing responsibilities on the farm.Tobacco farming was a time consuming process and could be unsuccessful. However, as a slave Robert, Banneker's father had learned various techniques about tobacco farming. Banneker's father invented a way to control the flow of the springs that surrounded the farm to irrigate the farm, making their tobacco farm a very successful one (27). His work was so reliable that their crops flourished even in dry spells. Banneker's parents insisted on being a self-sufficient family so Banneker's responsibilities on the farm not only included caring for tobacco but also for the animals and small garden (18). Despite all these responsibilities, Banneker still found time to read and teach himself math by borrowing books from neighboring families.In his free time, Banneker would write riddles that amused children and stumped adults. "The Puzzle of the Cooper and the Vinter" was well known by the neighboring children. The following riddle was found in Banneker's journals.Divide 60 into four such parts that the first being increased by 4, the second decreased...

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