WASHINGTON -- November 9 carries a historical significance for Washington, D.C. – it’s the birth date of the African American man who surveyed Washington, D.C., planning it into the city it is today.
Benjamin Banneker’s 287th birthday on Friday was celebrated via Twitter by the Council of DC.
“He helped survey the original boundaries of the District of Columbia. The good, pre-retrocession boundaries, just to be clear.”
According to the Library of Congress's website, “Banneker was one of the first African Americans to gain distinction in science.”
His contributions in astronomy and math, which he taught himself while living on a family-farm outside of Baltimore, attracted the attention of Thomas Jefferson. The Library of Congress writes online that Jefferson recommended Banneker for the surveying team that would lay out the capital city.
Banneker's design fell within the original boundaries of the capital city, which are marked by boundary stones -- stones that were placed by Banneker and teams that came after him, according to the National Parks Service. The one Banneker placed is referred to as SW9 and can be found in Alexandria. An iron fence protects it.
Jefferon and Banneker would remain close and when Banneker compiled an annual almanac of his calculations on medicine and astronomy, he sent the first copy to Jefferson, along with questions about Jefferson’s slaveholder status. The Library of Congress writes that Jefferson expressed “his ambivalence” about the latter and forwarded the almanac on to a French philosopher.
A version of his 1793 almanac is now property of the Smithsonian Museum of African American History and Culture, which also commemorates Banneker in the museum. Banneker died in October of 1806.
Today, buildings and areas are named after the mathematician, such as Benjamin Banneker Park ,which sits in Southwest, D.C., near L’Enfant Plaza. There's also a Benjamin Banneker High School.