Announcing The Frederick Douglass Prize U.S. History Essay Contest

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Your History Paper Could Win $2,500!

Announcing The Frederick Douglass Prize U.S. History Essay Contest for Massachusetts High School Students

New U.S. History Online Resource for Bay State Students:

Pioneer Institute is pleased to announce The Frederick Douglass Prize U.S. History Essay Contest for Massachusetts’s high school students. Pioneer Institute is a private, non-partisan public policy think tank with a longstanding reputation for innovative education reform. We believe that Massachusetts’s students are capable of excellence in history. We need your essays to prove us right.

Learn about The Frederick Douglass Prize US History Essay Contest (1st Prize: $2,500).

Hear from Massachusetts’ students, policy makers, and education leaders on the importance of US History instruction.

Explore our gallery of primary source documents providing clues about Paul Revere, Abigail Adams, John F. Kennedy, and other important American historical figures.

Take a virtual tour of the history around you: historic buildings, statues and landmarks throughout Massachusetts; timelines of Bay State innovations and major architectural milestones; and an interactive map that lets you explore history closer to home.

The Frederick Douglass Prize Essay Contest 2013 – Guidelines

An understanding of U.S. history is essential for continued American social, economic, and civic success. In August the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) exams in civics and U.S. history were canceled indefinitely. The three exams will be replaced by a single, new test: Technology and Engineering Literacy.

Students have historically performed extremely poorly on the civics and U.S. history NAEP exams. In 2010, most 4th graders did not know one reason why Abraham Lincoln was important, and 98% of graduating seniors could not identify the central issue of Brown v. Board of Education.

The story of U.S. history instruction in Massachusetts is no better than the national one. Despite a 2006 promise to place U.S. history on the MCAS exam, an exam that each student must pass before graduating high school, Massachusetts high school students do not have to demonstrate any knowledge of U.S. history or civics to get their diploma.

87% of Massachusetts teachers agree that what isn’t tested, isn’t taught. Not testing U.S. history has real consequences. Despite recognized excellence in math and language arts, no Massachusetts team has ever placed in the top ten teams at the We The People civics competition.

Pioneer Institute aims to revive U.S. history and civics instruction in Massachusetts. Our new essay contest and interactive website is part of this initiative. The Frederick Douglass Prize asks high school students to consider the idea of citizenship in important historical documents like the Constitution, the Gettysburg Address, and the Letter from Birmingham Jail. Writing an essay in response to this prompt will require real engagement with the ideas that have allowed for our continued success. The writer of the best essay will receive $2,500 and meet Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Taylor Branch.

In addition to the Frederick Douglass Prize, Pioneer Institute is also pleased to announce a new website,, aimed at showing the importance of teaching and testing U.S. history in Massachusetts.