Local History Day Students Reach Nationals

Abigail Toussaint and Emily Franzen, who were eighth graders last year at St. Ben's in Decorah, took their National History Day website about the Brown v. the Board of Education case all the way to nationals. They spent seven days in Washington DC and at the University of Maryland and placed in the top 20 junior group websites. The top 14 websites were chosen for finals, which unfortunately did not include these Iowans, so they placed somewhere between 15-21 out of 98 group websites from around the country.

Abigail and Emily started their research with a trip to the Luther College library, where librarians and history professors helped them choose their topic and start to find sources. Dr. Jacqueline Wilkie has been a staunch advocate for Luther's participation in the National History Day for many years and has encouraged history majors as well as professors to help junior high and high school students craft their project. History majors often serve as judges during the initial, regional round of competition.

In early January, Emily and Abigail spent an hour talking with Dr. Anderson about where they might focus their website. They were particularly intrigued by the story of Dr. Kenneth and Mamie Clark's famous doll test, which the lawyers used to prove the harm that segregated schools caused to black students. Abigail and Emily recreated the doll test at their school and found compelling results.

The two students also conducted several interviews and read many texts to prepare the information in the site. They shared the following about their experience at nationals:

"National History Day’s 2014 theme was “Rights and Responsibilities in History”.  Our website on Brown v Board of Education advanced to state, and then to nationals in Washington D.C.  While in Washington D.C. we had a variety of new experiences relating to National History Day and also touring our nation’s capitol.  We earned the chance to see many historical sites such as the monuments, Smithsonian museums, the Capitol, Supreme Court, Library of Congress, Mount Vernon, and Lincoln’s Cottage.  It was an amazing experience to see all these wonderful sites and grow closer as friends.  To bring our project to nationals required lots of hard work, time and effort.  We spent a lot of time researching, interviewing, writing, and creating our website. We feel so honored to have received the opportunity and to have earned this experience.  

"A big thank you to everyone who helped us with our project, including Dr. Lauren Anderson. Thanks for all you time and effort, and for our great interview!"

The front page of Abigail and Emily's website
Abigail and Emily in front of the Supreme Court building
Abigail and Emily at the Lincoln Memorial