African American Disfranchisement

Aug 20, 2012

Summer intern Elizabeth from Rhode Island shares her insight regarding African American disfranchisement during Theodore Roosevelt's presidency. 

I work with correspondence from Theodore Roosevelt’s first term as president and during his campaign for election as the Republican Party representative in 1903. Prevalent topics in this collection are the Post Office Scandal, the Revolution in Panama, and Civil Rights. In several letters addressed to Roosevelt, authors discuss the lack of African-American representation in the Republican Party. Though often credited as an egalitarian leader, Theodore Roosevelt received letters from supporters on various occasions, calling attention to issues of civil rights.

William H. Nobel Jr. of the Galveston City Times, Galveston, Texas, wrote to President Roosevelt on two separate occasions. Nobel discussed African-American disfranchisement in the southern states, specifically in Texas. Nobel relayed that despite the large African-American population in Texas, many of whom support Roosevelt’s candidacy, there are no African-American members in the House of Representatives. In a moving letter, Nobel, who is an African-American, asserts the need for Roosevelt to appoint African-American representation.

Letter from William H. Noble, Jr. to Theodore Roosevelt


Letter from William H. Noble, Jr. to Theodore Roosevelt, October 18, 1903. From the Library of Congress Manuscripts Division.

Editor of The Evening Post, Rollo Ogden stressed a similar call for equal representation in Washington. In letters to Roosevelt, Ogden discussed the Democratic Party’s effort to impede African-American voting rights in the Southern States, which could throw the election. Ogden relayed that should the Democrats secure power, it is only then that the Republican Party would pay heed to the current crimes against civil rights.

Letter from Rollo Ogden to Theodore Roosevelt

Letter from Rollo Ogden to Theodore Roosevelt, November 30, 1903. From the Library of Congress Manuscripts Division.

Documents like these speak of egregious past inequalities; it is heart-breaking to read of the struggle for civil rights fought by Americans. Today, over a century later, President Obama is triumphant against an American history of unequal representation. Documents like these remind us of regretful circumstances, inspiring continued efforts towards a more equal society.


Elizabeth Bauerle will graduate from Simmons College Graduate School of Library and Information Science with a concentration in Archives. She lives in Providence, Rhode Island, and also interns at the Rhode Island School of Design Archives. As an undergraduate, she studied art history at McGill University.

Posted by Elizabeth Bauerle on Aug 20, 2012 in History  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)  |  Share this post

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