Form and Content

(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

Claude Lewis begins Benjamin Banneker: The Man Who Saved Washington in rural England with Molly Walsh, Banneker’s grandmother. In this opening chapter, Walsh, a milkmaid, displeased her mistress and was consequently sent to the British colonies in America as an indentured servant. After her period of indenture ended, she became a free woman with a small tract of land. Soon, she acquired a male slave, whom she freed and later married. Walsh and her husband, like other early Marylanders, became tobacco farmers and reared a small family. Their oldest daughter, Mary, married one of her parents’ former slaves, Robert Bannaky (later Banneker), and from this union Benjamin was born.

Lewis explains how, as a youngster, Banneker worked on his parents’ farm in Howard County, Maryland, along with his sisters. At an early age, however, Banneker’s mother realized that her son was not really suited for agricultural pursuits. In chapter 4, the author discusses her determination and efforts to provide her son with an education. The local Quaker schoolmaster sympathized with her and risked losing his other students when he allowed Banneker to enter his school. Young Banneker, who could already read, proved to be a good scholar, and there were no incidents associated with his acceptance at the school.

During his young adult years, Banneker’s life revolved around the farm and his books. When he was around thirty years old, however, he...

(The entire section is 528 words.)