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Benjamin Banneker 1731–1806
Helped Map the United States Capital

Benjamin Banneker was born into freedom at a time when slavery was legal in Delaware. He worked on his family's farm, but found time to read many books. He taught himself math and other subjects. Using his math skills, and a telescope borrowed from a neighbor, Banneker studied the stars.

In 1791, a crew hired by President George Washington needed someone with math skills to help map the land that is now Washington, D.C. They hired Benjamin Banneker for the job.

Benjamin Banneker thought it was unfair that other African Americans were enslaved while he was free. He wrote a letter to Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson. The letter told Jefferson that African Americans and white people should be treated equally.

Comprehension Check

Why was Benjamin Banneker hired to map Washington, D.C.?

Critical Thinking

Why do you think learning was important to Benjamin Banneker?