Benjamin Banneker was born free on November 9, 1731, in Baltimore County, Maryland, United States, on the family farm near the Patapsco River, in the area that eventually became known as Oella, Maryland. He was soon joined by three sisters. He was the son of an African slave named Robert, who had bought his own freedom, and of Mary Banneky, who was the daughter of an Englishwoman and a free African slave. The family name was later changed to Banneker.
Banneker's parents were free and so he could escape the chains of slavery as well. Benjamin was raised with three sisters in a log house built by his father on his 100-acre farm near the banks of the Patapsco River. Few black families owned farms at that time because most blacks were slaves, but the Bannekys made a good living raising tobacco.
Still, the color of their skin alienated them from the community of nearby farmers. Amid a rising tide of sentiment against free blacks in the colonies, Banneker’s family had to tread lightly in their own neighborhood.