Thomas Jefferson and the Meanings of Liberty

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Thomas Jefferson and the Meanings of Liberty 1. a.) Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson were both representative of their time in the fact that they still held prejudices against different races. This was nothing but the norm for the 18th and 19th century. Jefferson owned slaves and Franklin, for most of his life, adamantly believed that African Americans were lesser. b.) But, quite unlike the mainstream ideals of their time, both men held strong ideals of equality. Franklin did at the end of his life reverse his ideas about African Americans, and dedicated many of his later years to equality for blacks. Jefferson also believed slavery to be an atrocious blot on the face of America. Their strong opinions of equality resonate in today’s world but were not considered the correct morals in their time. 2. a.) The conspiracy between Jefferson and his affair with Sally Hemings, his slave, first surfaced in a publication written by James Callender. b.) The purpose of the publication was to essentially drag Jefferson’s name through the mud. Written by a vindictive publisher in a time of increased political slander, it was used against Jefferson in his campaigns. c.) The varying interpretations indicate the use of “presentism” throughout the periods in which the affair has been analyzed. During the civil rights movement, use of the term “blacks” to describe the slave population was seen as one of the main points of insensitivity, because African Americans of the time had such little cultural footing in America. After the 60s, students began to reflect on Jefferson’s unwillingness to see integration as an option, because African Americans were still struggling to integrate after the civil rights movements. Modern day, the concern lies in Jefferson’s blatant stereotyping of slaves as lesser and even as “musical”. These all reflect the current ideals of the time in
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