Eligibility and Essay Guidelines

Winner from the December 2017 essay contest in Austin, Travis County, TX receiving gift from the community.


The 2019 Racial Justice Essay Contest in Anne Arundel County is open to all public high school students who were in grades 9-12 during the 2018-2019 school year, including recent 2019 high school graduates, living in Anne Arundel County, MD.

Deadline for submission:

Wednesday, August 7, 2019 by 11:59 pm CST

Guidelines to students

To participate in the scholarship contest, you will need to prepare an essay between 700 to 1000 words that explores the connection between a particular historical event and present-day issues based on the instructions below. Your essay should include (1) reflection on how history informs our present using one of three essay prompts, (2) engagement with other people or artistic expressions that add insight to exploration of our past and present, and (3) personal reflection on how historical issues of race and class impact their lives today.

Essay Preparation Instructions

  1. Review at least one of the following four websites and select one historical event described and featured on the sites. After choosing a historical event from the sites, learn more about the historical event using other sources, as well.

2. Read and consider the three prompts below. Select one prompt you would like to respond to in your essay.

Prompt 1. Think about the historical event you chose, and think about the children related to both sides of the violence or injustice. What are the major challenges that might prevent those children from living peacefully? Do you think it is possible for those children to overcome those challenges? If yes, why and how? If no, why and what should they do?

Prompt 2. Using the historical event you selected, discuss how the history of racial and economic injustice can explain a specific issue in our society today. Do you see economic and social impacts of this history in your community today? If so, what are those impacts? Do you think awareness of history can strengthen the ability of community members to change their current realities? Explain why you do or do not think so.

Prompt 3. A myth of black inferiority and white supremacy was developed to justify slavery in the United States, and that narrative of racial difference was never explicitly challenged by the 13th Amendment that abolished slavery. Based on your examination of the historical entry you chose, do you think narratives of racial difference continue to shape American society? If so, how can we change these narratives? What myths do you see shaping the way people in your community respond to each other?

3. Respond to your selected prompt using your research about the historical event and include additional reflection material from one or more of the following sources:

Additional Source Material 1. Identify and interview a member of your family or community who perhaps experienced some aspect of the historical event you chose, works in a field related to the issues you are exploring, or has strong feelings about the legacy of your historical event and present-day issues. Include some of your interview in your essay and discuss how you agree or disagree, and what you learned from the interview.

Additional Source Material 2. Select an artistic expression that relates to the historical event, the prompt, or the issues you discuss in your essay. You can choose from multiple artistic expressions, including song lyrics, theater scripts, movies, poetry, paintings, or other forms of artwork and artistic expression. Think about how the artistic expression relates to the historical event or present-day issues, what the artist/author may have wanted to convey, and describe how you think the artistic expression relates to the events and issues you discuss in your essay.

4. Include a list of all sources used, including the website you used to select your historical essay and the source for your additional reflection material, at the end of your essay. No specific format is required.

Essay Submission Instructions

1. Complete the essay entry form, which can be found here. Please sign and date the form.

2. Submit your entry form and completed essay with sources as a PDF or Word Document to:

Gabrielle Daniels, EJI Essay Coordinator

BY EMAIL: gdaniels@eji.org

BY MAIL: 122 Commerce Street, Montgomery, AL 36014

3. PLEASE NOTE: Entries that are not the original work of the student will be rendered ineligible. Entries that do not adhere to the word requirements (700-1000 words), do not include source information, and do not include the entry form will be considered incomplete submissions.

Decision Notifications and Awards

All participants will be emailed a decision notification update after the essay review process is complete. Scholarship awards will total at least $5,000, and winning students will receive their awards and scholarships at the historical marker dedication ceremony.

Additional Resources for Students, Parents, and Educators

For Students: If you would like additional "tips" on how to prepare your essay, please see our Tips for Students that can provide more information.

For Parents, Educators, and Community Groups: We strongly encourage parents, educators, and those who serve students in community organizations to partner with students and lend them support during their essay preparation. Offering assistance with editing or listening to their essay prior to submission to offer feedback are great ways to strengthen students' writing skills and essay focus. For more information on how you and others can support students, please review our Resources for Parents, Schools, and Community Groups.