B. Banners Letter to T. Jefferson: Analysis of The Utilized Strategies

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Words: 680 |

Page: 1|

4 min read

Published: Dec 12, 2018

Words: 680|Page: 1|4 min read

Published: Dec 12, 2018

Banneker Rhetorical Essay

Benjamin Banneker, a son of former slaves and an educated scholar, wrote a letter to Thomas Jefferson arguing about the mistreatment of slaves and the injustice of slavery. He assumes a knowledgeable and matter-of fact persona in order to challenge Jefferson’s loyalty to his Christian faith and urge him to abolish slavery. Banneker organizes his speech in a cause and effect manner by demonstrating Jefferson’s hypocrisy towards slavery and providing justification for his claims; he emphasizes his purpose by utilizing negative diction, historical allusions, and an appeal to religion in order to illustrate the injustice of slavery and effectively convey that it should be abolished.

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Banneker begins his letter by comparing British rule to slavery and establishing that Jefferson was once a strong advocate of anti-slavery ideals. He urges Jefferson to remember the “variety of dangers to which [he was] exposed to” and the time when he saw “the injustice of slavery” and the true “horrors of its conditions.” Banneker appeals to Jefferson’s emotions by connecting negative diction, such as “injustice” and “horrors”, with the system of slavery in order to effectively highlight Jefferson’s previous encounters with slavery and address the fact that Jefferson recognizes the horrors and oppression behind it. Additionally, Banneker’s negative diction associates a negative tone towards slavery for the rest of his letter and serves to justify his claims that slavery is immoral and severely wrong. Banneker goes on to allude to the Declaration of Independence which reveals Jefferson’s previous anti-slavery attitude. Within the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson argued that “all men are created equal” with “certain unalienable rights” when he himself was experiencing a form of slavery, yet he had no qualms about participating in slavery when the roles were reversed. Banneker references the Declaration of Independence in order to provide evidence of Jefferson’s hypocrisy and show that Jefferson held anti-slavery views but has since contradicted these views by actively participating in slavery. Moreover, Banneker’s usage of the Declaration of Independence reinforces and strengthens his argument by allowing him to directly attack Jefferson’s present and past ethical views and present himself as a credible source.

Furthermore, Banneker continues his letter by employing a compare and contrast structure to emphasize that Jefferson’s words have been empty and have lacked actual action; he reveals how Jefferson, once a strong advocate of abolishing slavery, is now “guilty of that most criminal act” which he “professedly detested in others.” Additionally, Banneker describes slavery as “groaning captivity” and “cruel oppression” which serves to represent slavery in its harshest light; Banneker purposefully utilizes powerful, negative diction to illustrate slavery as an unjust and horrendous action. Banneker, methodically and strategically, picks apart Jefferson’s Christian values by attacking his religious views and calling out Jefferson for being “fully convinced of the benevolence of the Father” yet directly “counteract[ing] his mercies.” Jefferson is Christian, yet he’s knowingly going against the will of God and committing an atrocious sin. Banneker utilizes a religious appeal in order to provoke guilt from Jefferson about allowing slavery to continue and make him realize that he is not following Christian values. Throughout the letter, Banneker addresses Jefferson as “sir” and “you” which serves the purpose of creating a mocking, condescending tone towards Jefferson. Banneker’s repetition of the pronoun “you” and title “sir” is a powerful and methodical technique that serves to place direct blame on Jefferson and make Jefferson take responsibility for his actions. Banneker’s usage of strong diction, religious appeals, and repetition serves the purpose of exposing Jefferson’s contradictory attitude towards slavery and challenge his Christian values.

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Through the tactical usage of powerful and emotional diction, appeal to religion, and uniform repetition, Banneker constructs a strong and empowering letter arguing about the injustice of slavery. Banneker hopes to reveal Jefferson’s hypocritical view concerning slavery and to demonstrate the dark and cruel nature of slavery in order to convince Jefferson that slavery shouldn’t exist. Banneker’s letter exposed that our nation was founded on the empty words of Jefferson and led to a movement that resulted in the abolishment of slavery.

Works Cited

  1. Banneker, B. (1791). Letter from Benjamin Banneker to Thomas Jefferson. Retrieved from
  2. McRae, R. (2018). Slavery and the American Founding: The Letter of Benjamin Banneker to Thomas Jefferson. The Review of Politics, 80(3), 337-361.
  3. Gregory, J. (2002). Banneker's challenge to Jefferson. History Today, 52(8), 34-40.
  4. Kiple, K. F., & King, V. (2007). Another Dimension of Slavery: Free People of Color in the Americas. In The Cambridge World History of Slavery (Vol. 3, pp. 362-387). Cambridge University Press.
  5. Allen, D. S. (2004). The bonds of the founders: Benjamin Banneker and Thomas Jefferson. The William and Mary Quarterly, 61(4), 601-626.
  6. Stewart, J. (2009). A Martyr's Tale: Nathan Hale and Benjamin Banneker. The Historian, 71(2), 284-303.
  7. Norton, M. B., Sheriff, C., Blight, D. W., Chudacoff, H. P., Logevall, F., & Bailey, B. (2017). A People and a Nation: A History of the United States (11th ed.). Cengage Learning.
  8. Stremple, M. (2016). The Rhetorical Triangle: Ethos, Pathos, Logos. The Reading Teacher, 70(2), 183-185.
  9. Carrigan, W. D., & Webb, C. K. (2016). The Lynching of Persons of Mexican Origin or Descent in the United States, 1848 to 1928. Journal of Social History, 49(2), 338-362.
  10. Turner, J. K. (2014). The First Emancipator: Slavery, Religion, and the Quiet Revolution of Robert Carter. Oxford University Press.
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Cite this Essay

B. Banners Letter to T. Jefferson: Analysis of the Utilized Strategies. (2018, December 11). GradesFixer. Retrieved April 14, 2024, from
“B. Banners Letter to T. Jefferson: Analysis of the Utilized Strategies.” GradesFixer, 11 Dec. 2018,
B. Banners Letter to T. Jefferson: Analysis of the Utilized Strategies. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 14 Apr. 2024].
B. Banners Letter to T. Jefferson: Analysis of the Utilized Strategies [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2018 Dec 11 [cited 2024 Apr 14]. Available from:
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