Benjamin Banneker (November 9, 1731 – October 19, 1806) was a free African-American almanac author, surveyor, naturalist, 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 original borders of the 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 on the topics of slavery and racial equality, Jefferson having earlier drafted the United States Declaration of Independence. Abolitionists and advocates of racial equality promoted and praised Banneker’s works.
Although a fire on the day of Banneker’s funeral destroyed many of his papers and belongings, one of his journals and several of his remaining artifacts are presently available for public viewing. 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.