Benjamin Banneker’s Letter to Thomas Jefferson Rhetorical Analysis

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Benjamin Banneker’s Letter to Thomas Jefferson Rhetorical Analysis

This essay will provide a rhetorical analysis of Benjamin Banneker’s letter to Thomas Jefferson. It will examine how Banneker uses ethos, pathos, and logos to argue against slavery and appeal for racial equality. The piece will discuss the historical context of the letter and its significance in the discourse on slavery and human rights. PapersOwl offers a variety of free essay examples on the topic of Declaration Of Independence.

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Benjamin Banneker’s Plea for Justice

In 1791, Benjamin Banneker, who has a son of former slaves parents had written a letter to Thomas Jefferson in a nice but efficient way; the letter written challenged the author of the Declaration of Independence and even the united states secretary of State at the time; Thomas Jefferson” on the main topics regarding class, freedom, and race at the time. In the letter written, he impressively touched on all the topics of how African Americans, blacks, were being treated badly and discriminated against as white privileged citizen who was seen as people who were above us African Americans during such time.

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Banneker saw this as injustice and addressed it in his letter; Banneker showed how he felt toward such a crisis using heartfelt words so he and Jefferson could reach a point of common ground.

Thomas Jefferson: A Contradictory Figure

By 1791, Jefferson had already authored the Declaration of Independence, serving as the United States Secretary of State. I would completely bash Jefferson; he did try, in his political career, to make somewhat attempt to deliberately end slavery in the United States. In 1778, he composed a law in Virginia that forbade any importation of oppressed African Americas, and even in 1784, he moved a law that would ban slavery in the developing territories in the north. But even despite Jefferson’s doubts about the slave trade, he continued to still believe in the main basic moral of social supremacy “whites over blacks.” There’s even evidence that Jefferson privately owned and had even auctioned up to 500 slaves.

The Power of Rhetorical Analysis

Even after reading the letter, we could acknowledge that Jefferson was a modern politician during such a time; Banneker cunningly used the U.S. Constitution to petition Jefferson’s ideas for the future. We see that because Banneker even states in the letter written; ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are designed equal.’ Banneker wants to show how the constitution has been broken, the documentation of which the Country was basically established. Banneker even explains that if the constitution states that ‘all men are created equal,’ then surely the system of slavery should not subsist. That little existence of slavery contradicts everything the Country stood for, like; freedom, for example.

Banneker uses references to the Declaration of Independence and the Bible to fight the movements of slavery. First, Banneker’s regards to the Declaration of Independence to justify slavery is unconstitutional. This allusion we see is strong because Jefferson supported writing the document and were his intentions. Moreover, Banneker notes that for Jefferson to truly believe his ideas, he must support them for everyone, despite race. Similar to this, Banneker alludes to the Bible. This is powerful because Jefferson and Washington are spiritual men, and Banneker identifies their transgressions through the eyes of God. Banneker politely challenges the morality of both men by including an implication that brings him level with the power of God.

Appealing to Morality and Logic

Conclusively, I support Banneker’s arguments. Benjamin Banneker uses rhetorical devices like ethos and logos, as well as his use of repeated formal diction, which gives persuasion towards his argument against slavery, which is why I believe his arguments are thorough. Throughout, Banneker uses repetition to keep a formal tone and logically present his argument. Equally powerful, his references to the Bible and the Declaration of Independence form a strong case against slavery.


  1. Letter to Thomas Jefferson from Benjamin Banneker, August 19, 1791. (n.d.). The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History.

  2. Monticello. (n.d.). Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello. 

  3. American Sphinx: The Contradictions of Thomas Jefferson. (n.d.). National Endowment for the Humanities. 

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Benjamin Banneker's Letter to Thomas Jefferson Rhetorical Analysis. (2023, Aug 09). Retrieved from