October 29, 2012
Occlude Slavery: The Fight for Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness
Benjamin Banneker’s letter to Thomas Jefferson and George Washington was emotionally charged in hope to reassure Jefferson and Washington of the tyranny that came through British rule. As the son of a former slave, Banneker understands the state of his enslaved brethren, and came to write Jefferson in 1791 in hope to convince him to impose the sharing of unalienable privileges. Even though Jefferson had respectable morals in mind when writing the Declaration of Independence, he seemed to lack in enforcement and distribution of impartial rights that every man deserves. Due to the lack of those actions, African Americans continued to live under the unbearable living conditions of slavery.
In an effort to relate his situation to Jefferson on a personal level, Banneker uses an anecdote to arouse disparagement and anguish received from rulers making poor and immoral decisions. By showing how Jefferson’s efforts towards the removal of dependence on Britain was similar to the condition of Banneker’s brethren and their tormenting captivity, he was able to make Jefferson understand his personal involvement: “Sir, suffer me to recall your mind…that in order to reduce you to a State of Servitude, look back I entreat you on the variety of dangers to which you were expose.” By reopening the era of King George III and his superseding reign over the colonies, Banneker provoked a connection between the persecutions African Americans felt and what the colonists experienced under British law when he writes of the terrors and prejudices felt by Jefferson and the colonies. He is also referring to the slavery that is occurring right before Jefferson’s eyes: “This sir, was a time in which you clearly saw into the injustice of a state of slavery and in which you had just apprehensions of the horrors of its condition.” Banneker is trying to make Jefferson realize how it feels to not have a...
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