Thirteen high school students from Mississippi’s McComb High School came to Washington, DC for an educational trip from June 7-14, 2012 in conjunction with the National History Day (NHD) competition at the University of Maryland. Four of the students — Terrius Harris, Dominque Taylor, Arcia Caston, and Tre Robinson — represented the state of Mississippi at National History Day with their documentary film about the 1961 Burglund High School Walkout and an exhibit on Brown v. Board. The additional students were from the Young People’s Project (YPP) of McComb and from the Digital Media class at the Business and Technology School.
The trip, funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, provided opportunities for the students and teachers to interact with innovative youth education and leadership programs, learn from historic sites in DC, and prepare another team of students to enter National History Day with a focus on local history next year. Following are some of the highlights of the week.
In addition to visiting monuments and historic sites, the students had a chance to meet youth in DC. Their first visit was to a high school with a social justice curriculum and expeditionary learning approach. The visit coincided with the school’s Celebration of Learning, so the students from McComb went in groups of three for timed presentations by the DC students about their projects in all subject areas. That same day ended with a poetry and theater workshop at the Atlas Theater, facilitated by Sandra Holloway of the Holloway Youth Project and Jonathan B. Tucker of the DC Youth Slam Team. They also met youth from across the country at the National History Day events. Manuel Scott III commented: “It felt good to know that we’re not the only children excited about history.”
Many visitors to DC don’t know that there is a city beyond the monuments and museums on the mall. The McComb students know otherwise. Public historian Marya McQuirter led them on a walking tour of historic U Street, starting at the Duke Ellington Statue and ending at the very popular Ben’s Chili Bowl, where they met the co-owner Nizam Ali. They travelled to Anacostia for a National Park Service led tour of the Frederick Douglass home and enjoyed a gospel brunch at the Howard Theater. A few of the students and two teachers met SNCC veteran and African American Civil War Memorial and Museum founder Frank Smith. They had the impromptu honor of showing their Burglund Walkout film at the museum to Smith, curator Hari Jones, and museum visitors. They had dinner one evening at the popular Busboys and Poets where they also had a chance to shop at the bookstore. Throughout their trip they learned about and become fans of DC’s homegrown music, go-go. Chuck Brown, the “Godfather of go-go, provided the sound track for the tour.
The students got a taste of DC’s summer heat with a day visiting the monuments and museums. They saw the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, and the outside of the White House. Half of the group went to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and they all went to the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.
The students had a behind-the-scenes tour of the Howard University Television station, of particular interest to the Digital Media students. While at Howard they took a campus tour of the historic Howard University. At the University of Maryland Jiménez-Porter Writers’ House the students participated in a discussion about the intersection of art, history, and activism with representatives from the campus labor rights activist group “Justice at Maryland,” the campus poetry club Terpoets, Split this Rock, and National History Day scholarship recipient and historian Allison Hartley.
The students from McComb were among close to 8,000 attendees at the largest ever 2012 National History Day contest. In addition to presenting their work to judges, the students and teachers had an opportunity to see dozens of other entries, attend workshops and social events, and meet peers from across the country. On Tuesday evening the results came in — the students had not won at the national level. However the judges’ written feedback indicated that they had done very well and provided clear guidance for future entries. Of course, the students were all “winners” in that they had won at the state level in McComb’s first NHD entry and produced a documentary that can be used in classrooms across the country for many years to come.
In addition to presenting at the national contest, the students showed their film at a reception at the Eatonville Restaurant. See photos, the film, and a description of the reception where they spoke with SNCC veterans and other guests of note. A Gannett News reporter attended and wrote an article about the Mississippi students at National History Day for the Clarion Ledger. Tykesha Faust noted, “I personally got to talk to SNCC veteran Dorie Lander. She told me a lot about things she did in the Movement. We even ended up in the Clarion Ledger.” SNCC veteran Lawrence Guyot could not attend for health reasons, so the students made a special trip to visit him.
In their final reflections about the week, one student noted that she will tell her family and friends that if there is one thing they should do before passing away, it is to come on this trip to DC. Arcia Caston stated, “Everything we did has left a special memory with us and this trip will bond our group as a whole for a very long time.” Let’s hope this is the first of many years when McComb students comes to DC for National History Day and more.
To the right, meet the students who participated in the 2012 trip to Washington, DC.