Parkville, MO

The old Benjamin Banneker School in Parkville, Missouri is listed on the National Register of Historic Places

CJ Coombs
Benjamin Banneker School in Parkville, Missouri is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.25or6to4, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

After the Civil War, African-American children who were in the area known as Parkville were initially taught in the basement of Parkville's Missouri Valley Hotel. After that, the students were taught in Bergen Hall at Park College (now known as Park University).

It was decided that the students needed their own building so a one-room school was built on property owned by Park College. Built in 1885, the historic Benjamin Banneker School was built in Parkville, Missouri. The bricks used for the construction were made by college students in their kilns. The school had a basement and a foundation made of limestone.

In 1898, there were 50 students enrolled, and enrollment continued to grow through 1899.

Given the size of the original Banneker School, it is hard to imagine many students occupying it. It is documented that in 1902 bids were sought for the construction of a new, larger educational facility. It is uncertain when the original Banneker School ceased to operate, but it is believed to be circa 1905. (Source.)

Until around 1902, the building was used as a primary school for African-American students at which time a larger school was built. The old school would later become a private residence.

The building was used as a residence for years. A kitchen and bathroom were added. During the 1980s, a teacher from the newer Banneker School in the 1940s learned a developer bought the original Banneker school and was going to demolish it. Her name was Lucille S. Douglass and she's given the credit for preserving the building including purchasing it from the developer and then deeding it to the Platte County Historical Society.

The building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1995 for its significance of Ethnic Heritage – Black Education. In 2008, it was listed on Missouri’s Most Endangered Historic Places because of its significant deterioration. (Source.)

The deed of the original building over 100 years old is now held by The Banneker School Foundation of Parkville, Missouri.

Benjamin Banneker

Benjamin Banneker was born in Ellicott's Mills, Maryland on November 9, 1731. He was the son of a father who used to be a slave and his mother was the daughter of an Englishwoman who was a former indentured servant. Banneker escaped slavery since his parents were free.

Banneker was pretty much self-educated and took a large interest in astronomy. He was highly intelligent and worked with farming and surveying.

Banneker's talents and intelligence eventually came to the attention of the Ellicott family, entrepreneurs who had made a name and fortune by building a series of gristmills in the Baltimore area in the 1770s. George Ellicott had a large personal library and loaned Banneker numerous books on astronomy and other fields. (Source.)

In 1791, he wrote a letter to Thomas Jefferson who was secretary of state at the time, and although he was a slave owner, Banneker tried to impress with the inclusion of one of his almanacs, his race should not be underestimated being intelligent. Click here to see Jefferson's handwritten response.

Also in 1791, Banneker worked with Andrew Ellicott in surveying land which would become Washington D.C.

Banneker was known for the almanacs he published between 1792 and 1797. Interestingly, he had also calculated the 17-year locust cycle. He died in Baltimore, Maryland in October 1806 leaving a strong legacy.

Thank you for reading.

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Multi-genre writer and indie author; 30 years of legal secretarial experience; BA in Eng Journalism & Creative Writing. Thinker, giver, and lover of life. Born into Air Force service life, life has taken me to Louisiana, Idaho, Kauai, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Missouri. I love family, art, truth, non-fiction, reading, history, and travel.

Kansas City, MO

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