The 15-cent Benjamin Banneker commemorative stamp was first placed on sale at Annapolis, Maryland, on February 15, 1980. A surveyor, astronomer, mathematician and craftsman, Benjamin Banneker (1731-1806) worked to combat the misconception that blacks were inferior in the days of colonial and early America. As a member of the surveying team that laid out the plans for the new capitol, Washington, D.C., Banneker stepped up as chief architect when Pierre L'Enfant was fired. The first architect had taken the plans with him when he left so Banneker had to recreate the plans for the city from memory. In 1791 he published the first of his 11 almanacs utilizing his observations of astronomy. He used this publication to counter Thomas Jefferson's claim that the Negro was inherently intellectually inferior. Jefferson apologized for his earlier comment and forwarded the almanac to the French Academy of Sciences.
The stamp was designed by Jerry Pinkney and issued in sheets of fifty. This was the second stamp to be printed privately under the terms of a contract awarded by the Postal Service in 1978. It was printed by American Bank Note Company and J.W. Fergusson and Sons.
This stamp is part of the Black Heritage Stamp Series. Initiated in 1978, the USPS continues to issue a stamp featuring a notable Black American every February in conjunction with Black History Month and at other times during the year.
Postal Bulletin (December 27, 1979).