AP Language and Composition
20 October, 2011
Benjamin Banneker’s Letter to Thomas Jefferson
Slavery was a major issue in the growth of our country, and the views of Benjamin Banneker-son of former slaves, a farmer, astronomer, mathematician, surveyor, and author-are evident in his letter written in 1791 to then secretary of state Thomas Jefferson. This letter was written during a time when we were trying to bring a country together as one, but there was a huge problem in the way to treat slavery that was preventing the advancement of a Nation. Banneker effectively utilizes rhetorical strategies to get his point that slavery must be abolished across to Thomas Jefferson.
Banneker uses allusions
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Banneker says “how pitiable is it…that you should at the same time be found guilty of that most criminal act which you professedly detested in others with respect to yourselves.” This is an effective way to stir up a feeling of anger and shame in Jefferson because of the harsh words Banneker describes him with. Words such as pitiable, criminal, and detested are attacking Jefferson to incite this anger and shame. They are all to pester Jefferson’s conscious to make him realize slavery is wrong and he is committing a pitiable, criminal, and detested act. Banneker also brings back exasperating memories of pre-revolutionary times when saying “reflect on that time in which every human aid appeared unavailable, and in which even hope and fortitude wore the aspect of inability to the conflict and you cannot but be led to a serious and grateful sense of your miraculous and providential preservation…” Jefferson will be thinking about the way Britain treated the colonists before the revolution, and how he felt about that. He felt that they were taking away their unalienable rights, the same way that slave’s rights are being taken away. Banneker was stating that since Jefferson was upset with Britain for their actions, he should be equally upset with himself at his actions dealing with slavery. This pathos stimulates many of Jefferson’s emotions, including instilling a significant amount of guilt and anger that will ultimately