Historical Documents as Rhetorical Texts


Curriculum: Language Arts/Composition 

Part 1. brief introduction to language as the art of persuasion (rhetorical texts; reference material for teachers: pp. 15-50 in James Loewen’s book, Lies Across America. What Our Historic Sites Get Wrong, The New Press, 1999; and see https://link.springer.com/content/pdf/bbm%3A978-1-349-22254-4%2F1.pdf);
Part 2. the history of the Portuguese immigration to Illinois by the Madeirans
(SEE https://mythicmississippi.illinois.edu/portuguese-il/ ) – letter for analysis will be provided to the students by the teacher
Part 3. the Scott Bibb case concerning school segregation in Alton and the historical marker’s text (SEE https://mythicmississippi.illinois.edu/alton/ ; https://www.lc.edu/News_Story/BibbMarker-2017/ )

Lesson objectives:
(1) to recognize what makes an argument persuasive
(2) to understand the “authority” of who states the argument
(3) to consider the importance of the “space” of an argument

Case studies in class:
Case study 1: a letter written by a Madeiran immigrant
Case study 2: Scott Bibb historical marker in Alton
read this article about school integration in Madison County: https://madison-historical.siue.edu/encyclopedia/alton-school-district-integration/
watch the theatrical performance of the Scott Bibb case – online: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=57_Nlg2tI_c 

(1) analyze the rhetorical arguments and persuasive techniques used in the Madeira letter, evaluate the effectiveness of the letter; are there
any logical fallacies? is the letter to compelling? Why? Why not?
(2) analyze the text of the Scott Bibb historical marker within the word limit permitted. Is it adequate and compelling? Why? Why not?

Students will research a historical event of their choice and create the text for a commemorative historical marker and also indicate where the marker would be placed and why.