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Rhetorical Analysis: President Lincoln and African Americans in Abolition of Slavery
Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States is considered to have played a crucial role in the abolition of slavery in the United States in 1865. However, a debate emerged whether President Lincoln freed the African Americans from slavery or the African Americans freed themselves. The article, “Abraham Lincoln’s Secret Visits to Slaves”, by William R. Black published in the Atlantic on February 12, 2018 analyzes the debate on Lincoln’s contribution to abolition of slavery, which include secret visits to the slaves to give them hope that they will be free. William Black is a historian of American religion and culture and focuses on the Civil War era. He received his PhD from Rice University and is a visiting instructor at Western Kentucky University. Black writes to students of history and any reader interested in the events of the Civil War era. The main idea of William Black’s article is that Abraham Lincoln led the abolition of slavery in the United States. According to Black, Lincoln worked hand-in-hand with the African Americans in the abolition of slavery. Therefore, the abolition of slavery should be attributed to both Lincoln and African Americans who stood up to oppose slavery. William Black uses ethos, pathos and logos to show that Lincoln worked hand-in-hand with African Americans to end slavery.
In the article, Black uses ethos to show the credibility of those interviewed during the interview. Ethos refer to the credibility of the speaker (Varpio 207). For instance, after describing how Lincoln visited a plantation near Marlin, Texas before the election of 1860 to assess the conditions of slaves at the plantation, the author states that that was the experience of Bob Maynard, and goes ahead to describe who Bob Maynard was. Black states, “At least that’s what happened according to Bob Maynard, who was born a slave and recounted the story as an old man in an interview with an employee of Federal Writers’ Project (FWP), a New Deal program created to put writers to work and enrich American culture.” In the statement, the author establishes the credibility of the speaker, Bob Maynard who a former slave. Furthermore, the author defines FWP, thus establishing the credibility of the research project. The evidence represents a citation of authority, because Bob Maynard has the authority of the evidence. Also, by defining FWP, the evidence represents citation of authority since the program was intended to enrich the American culture. The citation of the evidence from credible sources develops the ethos by appealing to the credibility of the information given. The appeal to ethos by establishing the credibility of the sources used backs the author’s thesis that President Lincoln worked hand-in-hand with African-Americans to end slavery, because by visiting the plantation secretly, he got face to face with the horrible conditions of the slaves. The use of ethos is effective to readers of history because by establishing the source of information and defining the purpose of the study, they are convinced that the information is true.
The author uses pathos invoke emotions within the reader by describing Lincoln’s secret’s visits at the plantations. Pathos refers to the use of emotions to persuade the audience (209). For instance, in the article, the author states, “The stranger paid close attention to how the enslaved people working on a plantation were treated-how they subsisted on a weekly ration of ‘four pounds of meat and a peck of meal’, how they were whipped and sometimes sold, resulting in the tearing apart of families.” In the statement, the author quotes Bob Maynard, a former slave who gives the experience. The sufferings of the slaves by surviving on a peck of meal, being whipped, sold and breaking families creates emotions within the audience. This is because everyone wants a good life and relating the experience of the slaves to oneself invokes resentful emotions towards the White slave owners. Showing that Lincoln experienced the harsh conditions within which the slaves worked creates the appeal of ethos. The use of pathos backs the author’s thesis that Lincoln worked hand-in-hand with African Americans to end. slavery. By interacting with the slaves, Lincoln leant about the evils of slavery and promised them that they shall be free soon. The appeal to emotions is effective with the students of history and those supporting White supremacy by implying that Lincoln and the African Americans needed each other to abolish slavery. The author uses logos to show that the collaboration of Lincoln and the Blacks led to the abolition of slavery. Logos refers to the use of reason and facts to persuade an audience (211). In the article, the author uses logos to show that Lincoln and African Americans needed each other to end slavery. Black writes, “If the enslaved people of the South needed Lincoln, then he needed them too”. The statement is appeals to reason in the manner that Lincoln could not have abolished slavery alone, neither could the slaves emancipated themselves alone. The establishment of the interaction of Lincoln and the slaves is used to explain the African Americans’ frustrations about associating Lincoln with emancipation. Black writes, “African Americans were understandably wary of associating Lincoln too closely with their emancipation.” Attributing emancipation too closely to Lincoln means that emancipation was a freedom from a benevolent white man and could be easily taken away. Furthermore, the author uses logic to show that Lincoln had collaborated with the Blacks by showing that after the abolition of slavery, former slave owners embarked on a revenge mission because Lincoln helped the Blacks to be free. The evidence represents authorial
helped the Blacks to be free. The evidence represents authorial expertise in analyzing historical issues, particularly the events during the Civil War era. Describing the hostile relationship between the former slaves and former slave owners develops the authors idea that Lincoln and African Americans worked together to end slavery. The use of logos backs the Black’s idea that Lincoln and African Americans worked hand-in-hand by demonstrating the hostile relationship of former slaves and former slave owners. While lynching the former slaves, the former slave owners shouted, “Lincoln freed you, we’ll show you where you belong.” Killing of the African Americans by the former slave owners showed that the former slave owners were frustrated with emancipation proclamation. The use of logos is effective with the readers of history because it uses reason and facts to support the idea that Lincoln and Africans worked hand-in-hand to end slavery.
I think the White supremacists felt bad about the claim that the African Americans fought for their freedom. Consequently, those who think that freedom was given by a benevolent White, conducted a research to support their point. However, according to William Black’s research, Lincoln and the African Americans worked hand-hand-hand to end slavery. This means Lincoln needed the Blacks to stand-up for their purpose and demand freedom. Similarly, African Americans needed Lincoln to convince the Congress to abolish slavery. Therefore, the argument that freedom was voluntarily given by the Whites is unwarranted since the Blacks had the desire to be free. In the words of Martin Luther King Jr, “Freedom is never given voluntarily by the oppressor, it must be demanded by the oppressed.” The Blacks had first expressed the desire to be free as illustrated in Lincoln’s secret visits to the plantations. Therefore, it is sufficient to conclude that Lincoln and African Americans worked hand-in-hand to end slavery.
Black, William R. “Abraham Lincoln’s Secret Visits to Slaves.” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, 18 May 2018, www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2018/02/former-slaves-stories-abraham-lincoln/552917/.
Varpio, Lara. “Using Rhetorical Appeals to Credibility, Logic, and Emotions to Increase Your Persuasiveness.” Perspectives on Medical Education, vol. 7, no. 3, June 2018, pp. 207–210. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1007/s40037-018-0420-2.