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Benjamin Banneker's Letter to Thomas Jefferson: Ethos, Pathos, Logos

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Words: 502 |

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3 min read

Published: Sep 1, 2020

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Words: 502|Page: 1|3 min read

Published: Sep 1, 2020

Benjamin Banneker’s Letter to Thomas Jefferson: Ethos, Pathos, Logos
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In summary, Benjamin Banneker's letter to Thomas Jefferson is a persuasive argument against slavery, employing rhetorical techniques such as ethos, pathos, and repetition to convey its message.

Ethos is established through Banneker's reference to the Declaration of Independence, using Jefferson's own words to challenge the contradiction of advocating for freedom while supporting slavery. This enhances Banneker's credibility.

Pathos is effectively employed through emotionally charged language, evoking sympathy for the suffering of enslaved individuals. Banneker's personalization of their hardships and use of pronouns like "his brethren" connect with readers on an emotional level.

Repetition, notably the use of "sir," maintains a respectful tone throughout the letter, despite vehement disagreement. It appeals to Jefferson's authority while urging him to reconsider his position.

Banneker's letter is a testament to his rhetorical skill and unwavering commitment to ending slavery. His strategic use of these rhetorical elements highlights the contradictions within Jefferson's principles and calls for a reevaluation of the institution of slavery.

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During the 1790s, Benjamin Banneker wrote a letter to Thomas Jefferson, the creator of the Declaration of Independence and secretary of state to President George Washington. In this letter, Benjamin expresses his negative opinions on slavery. He exposes the injustices of slavery and shares other people’s experiences and how slavery has affected them as well as himself. He uses rhetorical appeals to support his argument by connecting to the readers who have experienced slavery before and to appeal to their emotions. Through writing this letter, Benjamin uses ethos, pathos and repetition to express his argument against slavery.

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Banneker uses ethos to establish credibility, and trust in the audience. He does this by referencing the Declaration of Independence, and using its own words against the idea of slavery. He says, “All men are created equal” and “that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” which proves that Banneker is knowledgeable and is able to be trusted. He also talks about the Job in the Bible and is able to connect that to hardships that African Americans faced during slavery.

Banneker also uses pathos through emotional diction to create sympathy within the readers. This is shown when he says “groaning captivity” and “cruel oppression”. By acknowledging the condition of slavery, he is able to display the hardships of slavery and make the readers sympathize with him. He makes it more personalized to make the readers pity him even more by using pronouns like “his” in “his brethren”. He continues to say that violence has become a part of his everyday life. This also helps to keep the readers engaged when reading the letter. He tries to make Jefferson realize that there is a need for change when it comes to slavery.

Banneker uses repetition in order to appeal to Jefferson with respect and with the sense of an authority figure. Banneker opens his letters with “sir” and continuously repeats it throughout the letter. This shows that even though he does not agree with Jefferson’s ideals about slavery it shows that he has respect for him. He believes that if he repeats “sir” enough it will make Jefferson realize his wrongs. He uses “sir” to reason with Jefferson and tries to make him listen to his opinions. By using “sir” he is showing Jefferson that even though you’ve treated African Americans wrongly, I will still treat you with respect and be the better person. It also makes it difficult for Jefferson to become angry with these new ideals if he is continually being treated respected throughout the entirety of the letter.

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Banneker uses pathos, ethos, and repetition to support his argument and convince Jefferson that slavery is wrong. By using his credibility through the use of historical documents he is able to show readers that he is educated and able to support his fellow African Americans in freeing them from slavery. He is able to make the readers sympathize with others and convinces the readers and finally maybe with Jefferson as well.

Prompt Examples for the Benjamin Banneker Essays

  • The Use of Ethos in Benjamin Banneker’s Letter
    Explore how Benjamin Banneker employs ethos in his letter to Thomas Jefferson to establish credibility and trust in his argument against slavery, using references to historical documents and biblical references.
  • Pathos and Emotional Appeals in Banneker’s Letter
    Analyze the emotional impact of Banneker’s use of pathos, including emotional diction and personalized language, to evoke sympathy and engage the readers in his condemnation of slavery.
  • The Significance of Repetition in Banneker’s Argument
    Discuss the role of repetition in Banneker’s letter, specifically the repeated use of “sir,” and how it serves to convey respect, assert authority, and appeal to Thomas Jefferson’s sense of morality.
  • Rhetorical Appeals and Their Effectiveness in Banneker’s Argument
    Examine how Benjamin Banneker combines ethos, pathos, and repetition to make a persuasive case against slavery in his letter to Jefferson, and evaluate the overall effectiveness of his rhetorical strategy.
  • The Impact of Banneker’s Letter on Abolitionist Movements
    Explore the historical significance of Benjamin Banneker’s letter in the context of abolitionist movements and its role in challenging the institution of slavery in the late 18th century.
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Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

Cite this Essay

Benjamin Banneker’s Letter to Thomas Jefferson: Ethos, Pathos, Logos. (2020, September 01). GradesFixer. Retrieved February 22, 2024, from https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/ethos-pathos-and-repetition-in-benjamin-bannekers-letter-to-thomas-jefferson/
“Benjamin Banneker’s Letter to Thomas Jefferson: Ethos, Pathos, Logos.” GradesFixer, 01 Sept. 2020, gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/ethos-pathos-and-repetition-in-benjamin-bannekers-letter-to-thomas-jefferson/
Benjamin Banneker’s Letter to Thomas Jefferson: Ethos, Pathos, Logos. [online]. Available at: <https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/ethos-pathos-and-repetition-in-benjamin-bannekers-letter-to-thomas-jefferson/> [Accessed 22 Feb. 2024].
Benjamin Banneker’s Letter to Thomas Jefferson: Ethos, Pathos, Logos [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2020 Sept 01 [cited 2024 Feb 22]. Available from: https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/ethos-pathos-and-repetition-in-benjamin-bannekers-letter-to-thomas-jefferson/
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