On August 19, 1791, Benjamin Banneker, an African-American scientist who complied and published widely used almanacs, wrote a letter to the then Secretary of State, Thomas Jefferson, urging him to abolish slavery. Banneker first begins with praise of the future President, he then hints at abolition and his knowledge that Thomas Jefferson owned slaves, but also wanted to put abolition into the Declaration of Independence (lines of 23-27). He also develops ethos through stating that he is a person of color. Furthermore, this letter was delivered in an almanac; therefore, Banneker used his scientific knowledge as ethos as well.

Thomas Jefferson responded to Benjamin Banneker’s letter on August 30, 1791. Although he demonstrates that he has read Banneker’s letter and enjoys the almanac, he remains apathetic to Banneker’s proposition. Stating that “no body wishes more than I do to see such proofs as you exhibit”, and thus asking for proof of Banneker’s claims (lines 2-3). Jefferson then concludes with complementing Banneker’s almanac.

On July 5, 1852, Frederick Douglass, a freed slave made a speech questioning the celebration of freedom on the Fourth of July. His use of the kairotic moment of the birth of the United States gives ethos to his argument and makes his audience’s call to action stronger. He first establishes his purpose “to deliver a 4th of July oration (paragraph 2). He then continues on to urge Americans to remember their forefathers that affected change in a way that was regarded as radical at the time. He also attributes the ability for change to the young age of the nation, which was seventy-six at the time of this address. Douglass was not alone in this type of abolitionist speech. In Rochester, New York, where he delivered this address, his audience was widely sympathetic, but subsequent republications of the speech did not receive such praise. As to end on a positive note, Douglass finishes his address by stating “I do not despair of this country” urging his audience to not lose hope and that they can affect change (paragraph 71).

 

Although it has been hundreds of years since these documents were written or spoken, the issues are still current today. In an interview about his documentary of Jackie Robinson, Ken Burns speaks about the still-present inequality in our society today and how it is more than just a civil rights issue that was resolved with the Civil Rights Acts of the 1960s. The interview can be found here: http://www.rawstory.com/2016/04/watch-ken-burns-explains-how-america-has-always-been-a-racist-country/.

Furthermore, connections can be made between Frederick Douglass’ use of the political kairotic moment of the Fourth of July and the Black Lives Matter Activists’ use of Bernie Sanders’ political rally to spread their message during such a heated political kairotic moment. An article covering this event can be found here: http://time.com/3989917/black-lives-matter-protest-bernie-sanders-seattle/.

Finally, Banneker and Jefferson’s documents are in the format of letters. Letters are still used today, especially open letters to bring attention to a current issue. An example of this today is when a young boy wrote an open letter to President Obama about how he would be willing to welcome refugees into his family. A video of this open letter can be found here: https://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2016/09/21/six-year-olds-letter-president-we-will-give-him-family.

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