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Recommend this as revealing and fascinating biography of a figure in American history and the annals of science, a man whose name deserves wide recognition, Benjamin Banneker, free Negro. Shirley Graham has used the available source material judiciously, expanding within the limitations of the period and her deep and sympathetic understanding of her subject. Banneker held a unique position even in days when the color lines were not so sharply drawn in his native Maryland. His mother, daughter of a white bend woman who had served her term, and the Negro slave she had bought and freed, married in her turn another black man, and bore his children and insured their freedom and their land holdings. The Bannekers won the respect of the neighbors by their sound farming practices. Young Ben, taught by his grandmother to read, was prize pupil in the first regional school, established by a good Quaker. A bitter experience on his first exposure to discrimination because of color was almost offset by the challenge to his mind and heart given by a brilliant and gifted Jew who started him on the path of scientific research. From then on, Ben, through his own efforts and the enthusiastic cooperation of new neighbors, the Ellicotts, forged ahead; he became renowned as a clock maker, he published one of the earliest accurate almanacs, he built a reputation as an astronomer and mathematician- and, crowning achievement, he alone was able to put Major L'Enfant's plans for the infant city of Washington into operation. In sharp contrast with his achievements was his long battle for the real freedom of his race, and his personal story, with its ill-starred romance. Dramatic treatment of a rewarding subject, this is a book to call to attention of readers who might too easily bypass it. Shirley Graham won the award for the best book combatting racial intolerance in her life of Douglass, There Was Once a Slave.

Pub Date: Sept. 16th, 1949
Publisher: Messner