National History Day Student Filmmakers Named for Smithsonian Documentary Showcase

National Museum of African American History and Culture Selected Student Films to be Showcased by Smithsonian Learning Lab

WASHINGTON, DC—National History Day® (NHD), the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC), and the Smithsonian Learning Lab announced today 35 documentary films, produced by middle and high school students competing in the 2020 NHD National Contest, to be featured in an online showcase. The films were screened and selected by NMAAHC staff, and will premier tomorrow, Wednesday, June 17, as a special collection of the Smithsonian Learning Lab.

To be selected for the showcase, students needed to address topics in their documentaries consistent with the mission and stories reflected in the NMAAHC, narratives of human and civil rights, and the histories of other underrepresented and marginalized groups and communities. The ten-minute films also reflect the 2020 NHD theme, Breaking Barriers in History.

The documentary showcase was originally planned to be screened in the Oprah Winfrey Theater of the NMAAHC, but will now take place online because of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

“This is an incredible honor for these students and their Breaking Barriers in History films to have been selected by the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, a barrier-breaking institution in its own right,” said National History Day Executive Director Dr. Cathy Gorn. “Months and years from now, they will think back fondly on this week when their documentaries were viewed and experienced by people around the world visiting the Smithsonian Learning Lab and the documentary showcase.”

The 35 student films will be available to stream online for one week via the Smithsonian Learning Lab at, beginning at 10:30 a.m. EDT tomorrow, Wednesday, June 17 through next Wednesday, June 24.

This program is generously supported by United Airlines.

The following films and students have been selected for the showcase:

Breaking Barriers in Journalism: Dorothy Butler Gilliam
Noah Littleton & MacKenzie William
Hampton Cove Middle School
Cross Roads, Alabama

Hattie McDaniel: Breaking Barriers for Future African Americans in Hollywood
Bethany Frazier, Graysen Gowing, & Maura Wead
Ozark High School
Ozark, Arkansas

Wilma Rudolph: A Story of Perseverance; From Polio to Practice to Perfection
Isabelle Clements
Russellville Junior High School
Russellville, Arkansas

The Deafening Sound of Barriers Being Broken: The American School for the Deaf
Leah Glaspey & Nandini Shah
Irving A. Robbins Middle School
Farmington, Connecticut

On the Highest of Seven Hills
Khalil Sommerville
Eastern High School
Washington, D.C.

The Actress Who Died a Thousand Deaths: Anna May Wong and Racism in Hollywood
Kylie Leung & Shareen Qazi
Cab Calloway School of the Arts
Wilmington, Delaware

Shirley Chisholm: The Good Fight
Temple Lester
Midtown International School
Druid Hills, Georgia

Hoʻi ka ʻŌlelo: The Revitalization of Hawaiian Language in the Education System
Li'ua Tengan
Kamehameha Schools Kapalama Campus
Honolulu, Hawaii

One Woman's Vision: Eunice Kennedy Shriver's Race for Equality
Eshaan Chandani & Anjali Kumar
Johnston Middle School
Johnston, Iowa

Soul Train, Soul Change
Avery Kelley
Keller Regional Gifted Center
Chicago, Illinois

How Jazz Broke Racial and Cultural Barriers
Lola Fratto
Lincoln Park High School
Chicago, Illinois

Breaking Barriers at Bat: The Indianapolis Clowns
Julius Jodway, Timothy Kaye, Payton Krueger, & Aldan Zolman
John J. Young Middle School
Mishawaka, Indiana

"Either You Print It Just the Way I Draw It or I Quit"
Adyson Cashman & Allie Jones
Seaman Middle School
Topeka, Kansas

Alvin Ailey: Breaking Barriers in American Dance
Liliana Christensen & Zora Lotton-Barker
Lawrence High School
Lawrence, Kansas

Breaking the Barrier of Truth around King Leopold II’s Congo Free State through the Use of Mass Media
Shana Wolckenhaar
Bedford High School
Bedford, Massachusetts

Breaking the Invisible Barrier: The National Mental Health Act of 1946
Bobby Diaz, Rohin Garg, Thomas Huang, Allen Tang, & Andrew Wang
Winston Churchill High School
Potomac, Maryland

Keith Haring: Breaking Barriers during the AIDS Crisis
Matt Koff
Bullis School
Potomac, Maryland

Breaking into the Billboard Hot 100: How Motown Got Everybody "Dancing in the Street"
Laura Thielman
Whitehall Middle School
Whitehall, Michigan

Penumbra Theatre: Presenting African American Narratives through Performance
Iris Carroll
Open World Learning Community
St. Paul, Minnesota

Freedom Found on a Bootheel Roadside: The 1939 Sharecroppers Strike
Chelsea Swasho, Rylee Taylor
Richland High School
Richland, Missouri

Gaines v. Canada: The NAACP's Legal Strategy to End Segregation in Education
Ian Morgan
Central High School
Springfield, Missouri

Kathleen McIlwain
Folsom Berry & Ruby Murray
Pascagoula High School
Pascagoula, Mississippi

Kill Us or Desegregate Us: Diane Nash and Her Life through Breaking Barriers
Rechelle Gutierrez
Silver High School
Silver City, New Mexico

Yaa Asantewaa the War of the Golden Stool
A'Kaeila Coulter
Leadership Academy of Nevada
Las Vegas, Nevada

Breaking the Curfew: The Story of Minoru Yasui
Kyler Wang & Alan Zhou
Lincoln High School
Portland, Oregon

Operation Firefly: The Barrier Breaking Battalion
Rylee Mann & Karalin Reynolds
Helix School
Helix, Oregon

Diverse City: Residential Integration in Philadelphia's West Mount Airy
Lily Cohen, Margaux Engel, Isabella Greene, & Emmett Gordon
Central High School
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Dr. Bennet Omalu's Research on Brain Injuries: A Scientific Touchdown That Caught the NFL Offside
Nishka Malik
Singapore American School

To Hell and Back
Adam Kinder
Impact Early College High School
Baytown, Texas

Mendez v. Westminster: Breaking Barriers
Natalia Lopez
Green Canyon High School
North Logan, Utah

Dr. Patricia Bath: Breaking Racial, Gender, Medical, and Economic Barriers
Alexandria Pereira
The Delta High School
Richland, Washington

Hazel Scott: The Unsung Champion of Civil Rights
Ellie Leverett
University School of Milwaukee
Milwaukee, Wisconsin

To Be Young, Gifted, and Black: Nina Simone and the Civil Rights Movement
Eliot Algrem & Kendall Hoida
Green Bay Southwest High School
Green Bay, Wisconsin

Breaking Barriers in Black History: Carter G. Woodson and the Pursuit of Truth
Lucas Mooney
Charles Town, West Virginia

The Science of Determination: Dr. Percy Lavon Julian, the Hidden Chemist
Matthew Gray, Josey Johnson, Brett Pettibone, & Annika Wilmot
Lander Middle School
Lander, Wyoming

About National History Day® (NHD)
NHD is a non-profit organization based in College Park, Maryland, which seeks to improve the teaching and learning of history. The National History Day Contest was established in 1974 and currently engages more than half a million students every year in conducting original research on historical topics of interest. Students present their research as a documentary, exhibit, paper, performance, or website. Projects compete first at the local and affiliate levels, where the top entries are invited to the National Contest at the University of Maryland at College Park. NHD is sponsored in part by HISTORY®, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Park Service, Southwest Airlines, The Better Angels Society, Jacqueline B. Mars, and BBVA. For more information, visit

About the National Museum of African American History and Culture
Since opening Sept. 24, 2016, the National Museum of African American History and Culture has welcomed more than 7 million visitors. Occupying a prominent location next to the Washington Monument on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., the nearly 400,000 square-foot museum is the nation’s largest and most comprehensive cultural destination devoted exclusively to exploring, documenting and showcasing the African American story and its impact on American and world history. For more information about the museum, visit visit, follow @NMAAHC on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, or call Smithsonian information at (202) 633-1000.

About Smithsonian Learning Lab
The Smithsonian Learning Lab is a free, interactive platform for discovering millions of authentic digital resources from across the Smithsonian’s museums, research centers, libraries, archives and more. The site allows teachers and students to create and adapt personalized interactive instructional materials with online tools and share in the Smithsonian's expansive community of knowledge and learning. Prepackaged collections contain lessons, activities and recommended resources made by Smithsonian museum educators and thousands of classroom teachers across the country. For more information about the Smithsonian Learning Lab, visit, follow @SmithsonianLab on Twitter, or email

Colleen Kennedy
Communications Director
Phone: 301-405-0536
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