Student Historians Receive Accolades in Culminating Ceremony of Competition and School Year Destined for History Books

WASHINGTON, D.C. – On Saturday, June 20, National History Day® (NHD) presented the awards for the 2020 NHD National Contest in a livestreamed ceremony. Over a half-million middle and high school students entered the competition in late 2019. Just under 3,000 of them advanced through the local and state/affiliate rounds during a tumultuous spring disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic, school closures, and nationwide protests against racial injustice, to earn their place in the NHD National Contest, which migrated to a virtual format and proceeded entirely online.

Through documentaries, exhibits, papers, performances, and websites, students presented research projects addressing topics related to the 2020 NHD theme, Breaking Barriers in History.

“To make it to the National Contest in a normal year is a remarkable achievement,” said NHD Executive Director Dr. Cathy Gorn. “Given the unprecedented challenges that faced students over the last several months, I am even more impressed by what they achieved this year. They have shown an incredible level of fortitude and tenacity, and I am confident we will continue to see great things from them. The critical thinking and research skills developed and honed through competing in NHD, especially now, will help these students achieve success in college and on into their careers.” At the conclusion of Saturday’s awards ceremony, Dr. Gorn announced the 2021 National History Day theme, Communication in History: The Key to Understanding.

More than 400 historians and education professionals served as judges for the students’ work. As with all other aspects of the contest this year, the judging was conducted remotely online. More than 100 students from across the country will receive cash prizes between $500 and $2,000, each, for superior work in their categories.

Numerous awards are granted to students, including the following:
• First-place entries in the Junior and Senior divisions’ five categories of documentary, exhibit, paper, performance, and website are given the title, “National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Scholar” and receive a $1,000 award sponsored by NEH.
• Second and third-place entries in all categories receive $500 and $250, respectively.
• Two entries from each NHD state/affiliate receive an “Outstanding Affiliate Entry” award sponsored by the National Park Service.
• First, second, and third-place entries in the Junior and Senior individual documentary categories also receive The Next Generation Angels Awards from The Better Angels Society. The first-place senior winner is given the Anne Harrington Award, named for the late longtime friend and colleague of filmmaker Ken Burns.
• More than two dozen special awards are presented for topics ranging from African American History to World War I. Sponsored by organizations from around the country, they are presented to outstanding entries in any category and range in value from $250 to $10,000.

Here are the winners of the 2020 National History Day National Contest:

Category Winners

Special Award Winners

Outstanding Affiliate Entry Winners

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


Colleen Kennedy
Communications Director
Phone: 301-405-0536
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