- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 12, 2002

It was a different but not a distant world that Kendra Gray, Whitney Queen and Kim Short stumbled upon while researching their project for the National History Day contest, now at the University of Maryland at College Park.
It was a world just half a century ago, where little black children went to work for hours each morning before attending school a place with barely enough chairs and few amenities.
A world where white students would not set foot in a classroom with a single black student.
A world of blind hatred that mingled momentarily with their own when a woman who went to school in the '50s, when contacted for an interview, let out a volley of verbal abuse and used a racial epithet twice, Whitney said.
Luckily for the girls, others they contacted were more than cooperative, helping them come up with what is one of the most evocative projects in the nationwide contest, titled "A Walk in Your Shoes." The project discusses the desegregation of America's schools by focusing the spotlight on two schools one white, one black in Anne Arundel County, in the period after the 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka Supreme Court decision desegregated America's schools.
"We found it was not just hard for the African Americans, but it was hard for everyone. Everyone had to reform," said Whitney.
The project is among 1,144 that are on display this week at the university's Stamp Student Union. As many as 2,059 students from around the country are participating. They were handpicked from a total of 700,000 students who created projects nationwide.
Final winners will be announced tomorrow, and the top winner will take away $1,000 in cash, along with a scholarship to Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland.
According to National History Day Executive Director Cathy Gorn, not many children in America's schools are good at history, and the contest attempts to get them interested.
"We are developing our young citizens. If you think about it, these children will be much better voters because of this . We are helping raise a generation of young people with solid skills in research, thinking and presentation," she said.
Every year, organizers choose a theme for the contest and this year's was "Revolution, Reaction and Reform." Students came up with snappy, topical and witty projects.
One exhibit discussed the brassiere. Three lacy bras were mounted on a triangular block with notes that talked about the role of this undergarment in the women's movement.
Another discussed the TV series "I Love Lucy," complete with an exhibit of the zany episode with the title character and friend Ethel working on a candy-carrying conveyor belt.
Yet another discussed Afghan women, thrown into the spotlight since September 11.
The terrorist attacks, and the ensuing war, appeared to have influenced many projects.
"After September 11, children seem to realize that you cannot understand the present without understanding the past," Ms. Gorn said.
"Make Free," an exhibit about the Japanese internment in the United States after Pearl Harbor, took a close look at September 11 and the parallels between the two events.
"Since we have lived through September 11, we wanted to do a topic that hit close to home," said Alex Rojas, 15, a freshman at Pottstown Senior High School in Pennsylvania, who worked on the project with three others.
Kimberly Kopack, 14, had an uncle who died at Pearl Harbor. "Even though it was 60 years ago, my grandparents still feel a hatred for the Japanese," she said, adding that their project put the spotlight on the racism and fear that led to the internment, rather than any threat to national security.
Kathryn Cox and Samantha Williams, both 13, of Alice Deal Junior High School in Northwest, did a project on the birth-control pill.
"After the pill was introduced in 1961, only 500 women were taking it. By 1965, that number had gone up to 3.8 million," Kathryn said.

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide