NBC 4 Black History Essay Contest Winners
The Washington Informer partnered with NBC 4 on the 2011 celebration of Black History Month. The annual NBC4 Black History Essay Contest honors 9 -12 grade students who accepted the invitation to write an essay on “Why is Black History Month Important”.
The Black History Essay Contest is one of three heritage month essays contests that are sponsored by NBC4, because of their commitment to acknowl-edging the rich and diverse heritages throughout our community. The goal of the Black History Month Essay Contest is to continue to motivate study and thought.
The Washington Informer is proud to publish the winning essays from the 2011 NBC 4 Black History Month Essay Contest. Of the many entries that were received, the following four essays were judged to be the cream of the crop and are published here un-edited.
1st Place - Anthony Clarke
Edmund Burke School in Washington, DC
Black History: The Unknown and New Faces of Greatness
My essay does not focus on the trials and tribulations of our people in the swamps of the Deep South nor in the bowls of overcrowded and diseased slave ships riding the waves of the Atlantic. My explanation of why Black History is important starts in Africa. When Europeans first came to Africa in search of its material wealth they did not stumble across a dark and mysterious continent of savage people. What they found were clever inquisitive people ready and willing to engage in trade. It was only with the help of these intelligent African peoples that Europeans survived their trek in Africa. Africans were multilingual, industrious and naturally endowed with strong trading acumen and Africans were frequently able to influences exchanges with Europeans in their favor. Many African people were able to assimilate the best aspects of European culture whilst bringing unprecedented wealth to themselves and their communities. It is this ingrained integrity, intelligence, and burning desire for self-betterment that often goes untold and makes the appreciation of African and African American accomplishments through Black History month important. During Black History month I find that our focus is usually placed on well-known figures such as Martin Luther King, Thurgood Marshall, and Harriet Tubman, but there are a wealth of people who have never had their stories told, their voices and deeds obscured by our society’s inability to recognize their accomplishments. I this paper I hope to bring attention to their stories and how much people of African have shaped America.
Aspiring to go into the Law, I draw my inspiration not only from Thurgood Marshall, the first black judge on the Supreme Court but also from Anthony Johnson, a Virginia slave who in the 1620s used his knowledge of the British legal codes to fight for and win the freedom of himself and his family from their master. Well-spoke and knowledgeable of European Law, early slaves such as Anthony Johnson found ways to settle for their freedom in court, achieving their own manumission and rights as freeman due to their legal skill. Johnson was to later run a profitable tobacco farm, which employed both white and black for laborers. Johnson and other early African Americans like him were to shape our nation through the Revolutionary War.
Some 250 years after Anthony Johnson used the law of the land to free himself and shape the early American economy. The United States was being torn asunder by the Civil War. On one side was the North, fighting for the continuity of the Union, and on the other side was the South fighting to make a new nation. During this conflict, African Americans were more than the just the complacent and loyal patrons of the Union, black in America, actively fought for their freedom. The four year struggle that was the Civil war saw 163 African American regiments serve their country with unwavering loyalty and with the ferocity of people fighting to free their families from oppression. Black efforts to assist the Union where not only on the front lines, some African Americans served their country in the heart of the Confederacy itself. Marry Elizabeth Bowser, a freed slave who posed as a house slave in the home of Confederate President, Jefferson Davis, is a notable example. Bowser, who kept her literacy secret would at night, when she was forced to serve her master’s dinner meticulously read and memorize the documents of the Confederate leadership and report her findings to a network of Union spies working in Richmond. Through her masterful spying Bowser was able to save the lives of countless Union soldiers and ultimately help end the bloodiest war fought on American soil. Much like Harriet Tubman, Bowser used her intelligence, craftiness, and skill to save the country she loved.
Now, 150 years after the guns of the Civil War were silenced at Appomattox and Elizabeth Bowser faded into obscurity, a new face has emerged on the scene for African American leaders and pushes the paradigms of African Americans in education. In 2010, Dr. Christopher B. Howard was the first African American to assume Presidency of Hampden-Sydney College. Hampden-Sydney College was founded in 1775, was one of the last schools chartered before the creation of the United States and is the oldest all male school in country. I was fortunate enough to be able to bear witness to the momentous event that was the inauguration of President Howard. Hampden-Sydney, a school rich in the tradition of developing talented young men into the leaders of tomorrow, selected Dr. Howard as the strongest candidate in the race presidency not only because of the strength of his resume but because of the strength of his character. In his inaugural address he states “A Hampden-Sydney Man commands respect by who he is and what he does as a good citizen” Dr Howard Stated that instance on honor, character, and development of the mind, body and the soul are what make Hampden-Sydney an institution without pee, I also believe that these qualities are what make Black History in America worth constant celebration.