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Rhetorical Annalysis of Benjamin Banneker's Letter to Thomas Jefferson

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In 1791 Benjamin Banneker, the son of former slaves, astronomer, and almanac author, wrote a letter to Thomas Jefferson, in a courteous but forceful manner, challenging the framer of the Declaration of Independence and secretary of state on the topics of race and freedom. He touches on the topics of the way blacks were treated and seen by the common white American citizen and how it is an injustice. In his letter, Banneker uses ethos, logos, pathos, repetition, syntax, and juxtaposition to sympathize with Jefferson about former hardships to perhaps reach common ground. Benjamin Banneker appeals to ethos, creating a common ground for the two men and stating that both of them have overcome adversities, him in Slavery, and Jefferson in the…show more content…
“…With respect to them and as Job proposed to his friends, ‘put your souls in their souls instead’,” this comparison of Jefferson to a righteous man in the bible appeals and compliments him while influencing him in the direction Banneker wants him to think. He eases up on his argument when at the end of the expert he sates he doesn’t need Jefferson to find the end-all solution to the horrible institution of slavery, but only wants him to wean from the prejudices that have spawned from owning slaves. The repetition of the word “sir” at the beginning of each paragraph in his letter also holds a great weight on Benjamin Banneker’s decision to address Jefferson with his plea. It shows ethos, that he understands his position in comparison to Jefferson and is spoken out of respect. His risky gesture was carefully thought out, shown in the syntax of his sentences, long and carefully attacking the points he means to address. His well-formed sentences disprove the ideas that African Americans are all illiterate and incapable. Throughout the letter strong words such as fortitude, providential, and abhorrence justify that the letter is worth Jefferson’s time, not disdain. Continuously repeating “sir and his suggestions that his own achievements as a freedmen were a contradiction of Jefferson’s belief that blacks lacked intellectual ability and proof of what they could achieve when they were not tied down by slavery. Just like the writing of Fredrick Douglas, his
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