Benjamin Banneker Museum Celebrates 274th Birthday of Namesake

by Patreka White
Baltimore Times

Originally posted 11/11/2005

 

The Benjamin Banneker Historical Park and Museum has two main events a year. The first event is the celebration of the anniversary of the Benjamin Banneker Historical Park and Museum that occurs on the first Saturday of June. The second event is the celebration of Benjamin Banneker's birthday, which culminates with the cutting of a birthday cake.

On November 5, 2005 the Benjamin Banneker Historical Park and Museum and supporters celebrated Benjamin Banneker's 274th birthday.

The Benjamin Banneker Historical Park is 142-acre environmental conservation site. The natural woodland area is the former homestead of Benjamin Banneker, who was born a free man. He was an almanac author, a self-taught astronomer and surveyor during the Colonial times.

Benjamin Banneker Historical Park and Museum opened in June 1998, which features a community gallery that offers changing exhibits and a Banneker gallery.

Close to 200 people came out to celebrate the multifaceted event, which included the utilization of the entire park's ground; including the main museum building, the Pavilion and the Bannaky House.

Bannaky House, a 1850 restored stone farmhouse that houses a small library and a community meeting room opened in June 2004.

There were activities for everyone. Entertainment included musical performances by the Boy's Choir of Powhattan and Agape dancers from Rising Sun Church. The event also featured the Amstrad String Trio, a resident classical music group with the museum.

The highlights of the event were the storytellers who portrayed family and friends of Benjamin Banneker. Martel Tyric Brown Oshel, 12, portrayed Benjamin Banneker as a child. Bob Smith, a local artist and storyteller portrayed Benjamin Banneker. Jim Moser portrayed Senator James McHenry, whom Fort McHenry was named for. Sen. McHenry was a Revolutionary War General who wrote a noted letter to publishers documenting his support of Benjamin Banneker. This enabled Banneker to have his
almanacs published.

"We had a whole troop of storytellers all decked in period costumes. They were very much enjoyed by adults and kids alike," said Steven X. Lee, director of the Benjamin Banneker Historical Park and Museum.

People had the opportunity to talk with the storytellers.

There were also colonial and contemporary holiday crafts for the children. Guests also had the opportunity to play "Where is Jemima?," a game where clues about Jemima, one of Benjamin's sisters, were scattered throughout the Benjamin Banneker Historical Park and Museum property.

"Kid's had a blast on that Indian Summer day. It was really beautiful to see such a turn-out of young people," said Lee.

Guests also took advantage of the weather and toured the property on white horse-drawn carriages.

Another highlight of the event were the Benjamin's classic math puzzles, presented by a math teacher from the Benjamin Banneker High School in Washington, D.C. and Peggy Seats, CEO of The Washington Interdependence Council of the Benjamin Banneker Memorial. The council is a non-profit organization with the mission of erecting a major statue monument for Benjamin Banneker at the LeFont Plaza in Washington, D.C. in honor of his work at the Plaza.

"The event really showcased the accomplishments of Benjamin Banneker. It also showcased the mathematical prowess of Benjamin through the puzzles that were presented at the last activity," said Quentin Wyatt, vice-chairman of The Friends of Benjamin Banneker Historical Park and Museum, Inc. The Friends of Benjamin Banneker Historical Park and Museum, Inc., a non-profit community organization in Baltimore County that was founded in March 1985 to support and ensure the development of the historical park and museum.

The museum and park also announced a toy drive at the birthday event.

Each year the Benjamin Banneker Historical Park and Museum collects toys to give to disadvantaged youths

"We ask people to donate a packaged toy that can be delivered to the Museum," said Lee.

The drive lasts until December 17. Once collected, the toys are given to non-profit organizations for distribution.
The Benjamin Banneker Historical Park and Museum is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday - Saturday.

For more information visit www.thefriendsofbanneker.org or call 410-887-1081.



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