Period 1, AP English Language & Composition
September 29, 2012
In 1791, Benjamin Banneker, the lowly son of former slaves, wrote to Thomas Jefferson, the great framer of the Declaration of Independence and advocate for equality, urging Jefferson to see the hypocrisy and injustices of slavery in the colonies. During this post-Revolutionary time, slavery was still prevalent in the colonies which bewildered many as America embedded its roots in the “inalienable” rights given to “all” men, who were all created “equally”. In such a paradoxical situation, Banneker appeals to Jefferson’s logic and morality to instill a sense of unity between the enslaved and the slave owners as well as to convince Jefferson that the only just resolution to the issue is freedom.
To bridge the divide between Black slaves and White slave owners, Banneker calls forth memories of the Revolution, in which Jefferson considered himself to be subjugated to a state of slavery himself. In providing this recollection of pre-Revolutionary circumstances, Banneker reminds Jefferson of his time suffering underneath the oppressive rule of the British Crown, his “state of slavery”. This apt choice of diction connects Jefferson to Banneker and his enslaved brethren, binding them in the misery of involuntary servitude. Banneker then juxtaposes this state of slavery with the current state, that of liberty and individual rights for White men. He shows Jefferson how his subjugation by the British State pushed Jefferson to act as he had in the name of inalienable rights. In doing so, Banneker also attempts to relate Jefferson’s former position with the current position of Black slaves in the colonies, hoping to evoke an empathetic response for Jefferson to act upon in the name of universal freedom. Using empathy to relate to Jefferson, Banneker attempts to mentally bond Jefferson with Black slaves in order for him to see the irony in his actions and...