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Black History and Astrology: Scorpio Benjamin Banneker’s Contributions

black history month and astrology

Benjamin Banneker (1731-1806), a “triple Scorpio” astronomer, made vital contributions to astrology by mapping motion of the planets, moon and stars—and once accused American Founding Father Thomas Jefferson of being a hypocrite.

We astrologers owe much of our work to Benjamin Banneker, a self-educated African American with his Sun, moon and Mercury in mystical Scorpio. Banneker was born free and taught himself astronomy and mathematics. Banneker wrote and published his own yearly almanac and ephemeris (map of the stars), an annual guide that modern astrologers (including us!) use to track the planets and zodiac transits.

benjamin banneker almanac

Banneker constructed his uncannily accurate ephemerides by hand using a telescope. (They are preserved by The Smithsonian and may be viewed here.) He correctly predicted a total eclipse of the Sun in 1788. His almanacs, which were published from 1792-97, contained a substantial amount of social and political commentary.

For example, the outspoken astro-hero called out Aries Thomas Jefferson (then U.S. Secretary of State-slash-drafter of the Declaration of Independence) as a hypocrite. How, Banneker quizzed, could Jefferson claim “all men are created equal” yet be a slave owner?

Jefferson wrote back, praising Banneker on his almanac (he was so impressed he sent a copy to the secretary of the French Academy of Sciences) and responding to his correspondence. Banneker published the exchange in his 1793 almanac (eight years later Jefferson became the third president of the U.S.!) We credit Banneker’s outspoken Jupiter in mighty Leo and fearless Mars in blunt Sagittarius for his gusto!

benjamin bannker chart

Banneker’s chart (birth time unknown) and a replica of his famous clock

Saturn (aka Chronos, the ruler of time) was transiting its home sign of Capricorn when Banneker was born. It’s no surprise he’s also well-known for hand-carving a striking wooden clock that he made after seeing only two other timepieces. The clock ran for 40 years and eerily burned along with many of his papers in his cabin on the day of his funeral (Scorpio magic, perhaps?).

Banneker’s life and contributions may not be more widely known, but we are forever grateful to this smart, fearless and ahead-of-his-time triple Scorpio!

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