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Alexander Graham Bell's design sketch of the telephone, ca. 1876.

[Detail] Alexander Graham Bell's design sketch of the telephone

Emotional & Rational Appeal

In 1904, Bell wrote a letter to President Theodore Roosevelt regarding an episode in which an African American in his employ was denied basic human rights while in Canada. Search on Theodore Roosevelt to find this letter. Have students examine Bell's request that the State Department investigate the case and the documents he enclosed to further his appeal for redress.

Dear Sir:-

Allow me to direct your attention to the fact that Mr. Charles F. Thompson, a colored man in my employment, and his wife, both citizens of the United States, have suffered from exposure to a storm in consequence of exclusion from six of the public hotels of Sydney, Nova Scotia -- a town where there is no special accommodation for colored persons. They have been put to unnecessary expense on account of doctor's bill and carriage hire, and in addition have been insulted on account of their color.

From Letter from Alexander Graham Bell to Theodore Roosevelt, December 8, 1904.

  • What reasoning does Bell give for asking the State Department to get involved in this incident of discrimination?
  • Are Bell's arguments based on citation of laws? Common practice? Basic human dignity?
  • Does Bell appeal to the emotions of the readers? To their rational analysis of the situation?
  • How does Bell vouch for his employee? What evidence does Bell give of this man's character?
  • What is Bell's tone? How does it effect his request?