By: Leon Kwasi Kuntuo-Asare
Benjamin Banneker was born on November 9, 1731 in Baltimore county, Province of Maryland, in British America. His mom, Mary Banneky was a free Black person, and his father Robert, was a freed slave from Guinea.
Banneker would learn to read by studying the family’s bible, and he would begin to learn and become exceptional in mathematics once he began attending a Quaker school.
His Excellence in mathematics would help make him a great inventor. One day he saw a traveling salesman with a pocket watch, and since no watches existed in colonial America at the time, he used his mathematics skills to invent his own watch. He would craft the watch entirely out of wood, and reportedly it ran perfect for the next 40 years.
Not only was Banneker a great mathematician and inventor, but his greatness would extend to astronomy. In 1789, Banneker predict the occurence of a solar eclipse, and to the shock of his skeptics, the eclipse would take place on April 14th, just as hee predicted.
Banneker, would also become an anti-slavery advocate, after he read Thomas Jefferson’s doctrine that “all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, and that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness “, which was a total contradiction to Jefferson’s own actions as a slave owner. Banneker would write to Jefferson, telling him that Blacks were equal to Whites in intelligence and therefore were entitled to the same rights, protections and privileges as White men in America. To prove his point on the intelligence of his people, Banneker would include with his letter a copy of his almanac, which was a yearly publication that documented coming eclipses, holidays, and the hours of the day that the sun would rise and set, also included were anti-slavery essays, calling for the abolition of America’s original sin of slavery.
Jefferson would write back to him, with somewhat of a new understanding on the issues of race. A friendship would be formed between the two men, and remained intact even after Jefferson became president of America.
Because of his genius and his friendship him Jefferson, Banneker would be selected to be one of the men to survey the original boundaries of Washington D.C.
When the French city planner Pierre Charles L’Enfant, quit and took his plans back with him to France, Banneker would reproduce the plans by memory.
After dedicating his entire life to science and the improvement of humanity, Banneker would die in 1806 at the age of 74.
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BY: LEON KWASI KUNTUO-ASARE
Booker Taliferro Washington, was born in Hale’s Ford, Virginia, somewhere around April 5, 1856. Like most slaves, exact records were not kept on his birth. His mother was an enslaved African-American woman named Jane, who worked on the James Burrough plantation, in southwest, Virginia , the identity of Booker’s father is unknown, but he was believed to be a white man who worked on a nearby plantation.
When Booker was 9, he and his family gained their freedom, in 1865, under the Emancipation Proclamation, when the union troops occupied their region in Virginia.
Booker T. Washington worked several jobs, including working as a coal miner in West Virginia to earn money to pay for school, eventually he would attend Hampton Institute and Wayland seminary.
In 1881 the Samuel C. Armstrong, the head of Hampton Institute , recommended Washington for the principal job, at the Tuskegee Institute, in Alabama.
Washington would get married three times, Washington was married to Fannie N. Smith from 1882-1884, when she died. Washington then married Olivia A. Davidson from 1886 to her death in1889, his last marriage would be to Margaret James Murry from 1893 to his death in 1915.
Washington would have three children from the first two marriages : Portia, Ernest and Booker T. Washington jr.
In 1895 , as lynchings of African-Americans, by racist whites were on the rise in the South, Washington gave a speech, now known as the “Atlanta Compromise” , which brought him into the national spotlight. In the speech he encouraged African-Americans to uplift themselves through education and entrepreneurship, rather than challenging Jim Crow segregation laws in the south, which at the time, would of been a death sentence for any African-American, challenging white supremacy.
Washington advocated for blacks to take the “Go Slow” approach to avoid a harsh and violent backlash from racist whites, which was very frequent in the south at the time.
At the time the government gave a very small amount of money to African-American schools, so a lot of money for African-American schools came from rich white philanthropists. Washington would build relationships with some of those rich white people to help fund educational programs to help the progression of the African-American community, through higher education .
Washington would die on November 14, 1915, at the age of 59. Despite his hardwork for the African-American people, all across the nation, he would remain the principal at Tuskegee, until the day he died.
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