Benjamin Banneker (analysis)

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Benjamin Banneker was a simple man who stood up for his beliefs and argued against the issue of slavery in the Unites States. As a son of former slaves, a farmer and a brilliant man, Banneker decided to wring to Thomas Jefferson in 1791. Writing to the secretary of state to President George Washington and framer of the Declaration of Independence shows how adamant Banneker was about the immorality of slavery. Noting the irony of America’s ideals that “all men are created equal,” as stated in The Declaration of Independence, Banneker and historians alike highlight how America strips itself of its ideals because slaves can be bought, sold, and treated like property. In 1971, Benjamin Banneker demonstrates his animosity towards inequality in his letter to Thomas Jefferson through using personification to highlight the torment of being under the tyranny of British rule, using alliteration and historical allusion to show the depravity of slavery.

British tyranny was a great torment for America as a whole, and Banneker decides to open his letter with a nostalgic recount of Jefferson’s involvement with tyranny under British control. Banneker opens his letter like this to remind Jefferson of how detrimental and painful this was for him, highlighting when the British used their power to “reduce you to a State of Servitude.” Banneker’s use of personification makes Jefferson feel immersed in the containment and restriction of freedom he once experienced under British tyranny. Furthermore, Banneker uses the repetition of “in which” in lines 6-8 to ask Jefferson to remember the hopeless suffering that was endured in a time without freedom under British rule. Yet, in lines 8-13 Banneker uses parallelism with his repetition of “you cannot” to show that Jefferson is eternally grateful that freedom was granted to him after he was oppressed by the British. These uses of rhetoric allow for Banneker to express to Jefferson how horrible the practice of slavery is through opening the wounds that Jefferson himself encountered when his freedom was stripped form him under British tyranny. Banneker’s recounts of this time for America forces Jefferson to see how fortunate he is to be free, and to have the gift of freedom, hopefully altering his perspective on the fact that America is oppressing slaves in the same way the British oppressed him.

Moreover, in line 44, “presume to prescribe,” on order to highlight how he is practically begging and pleading that action needs to be taken against the practice of slavery. Banneker uses this form of alliteration as he ends his letter in order to show Jefferson he respects him, but that slaves are in need of freedom. This alliteration is used to help Jefferson realize that the issue of slavery in the united states is stripping America of its ideals, and that Jefferson needs to fix this. Banneker states that “neither will I presume to prescribe” shows that Banneker is telling Jefferson that he will fight for action to be taken towards eliminating slavery, and that Jefferson needs to let his slaves free so that he can lead America back to freedom. Finally, Banneker uses The Declaration of Independence, which Jefferson framed, to highlight America’s true ideals and how slavery contradicts them. Using this historical allusion, Banneker reminds Jefferson of the injustices occurring in America through the practice of slavery. Banneker reminds Jefferson that the words he inscribed into The Declaration of Independence were words of hope and desire because Jefferson wrote them while he was being stripped of his freedom by the British tyranny. Reminding Jefferson that he wrote that “all men were created equal” and that The Declaration of Independence is the representation of America’s ideals, Banneker hopes to remind and show Jefferson that he is being a hypocrite when he involves himself in the practice of slaver, and that the government needs to fix America’s open hypocrisy. Banneker stresses Jefferson promised the people of their nation a life full of “liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” when he alludes to The Declaration of Independence, forcing Jefferson to see that his hypocrisy has stripped slaves of the freedoms and hopefulness found in America. Jefferson framed The Declaration of Independence during a time where his freedoms were being oppressed and as Banneker remind him of this, he hopes Jefferson will have a realization and open his eyes to the fact that he now owns slaves and is fostering the very values that made him believe all men should be treated equally in America.   

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Benjamin Banneker (analysis). (2021, Jun 22). Retrieved December 1, 2023 , from

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