Breaking Barriers in History


Each year, National History Day® frames students’ research within a historical theme. The theme is chosen for broad application to world, national, or state history and its relevance to ancient history or to the more recent past. The 2019-2020 theme is Breaking Barriers in History. Click here to watch the Breaking Barriers in History theme webinar, and click here to view the webinar theme slides.

Scroll down for more information about the 2020 theme, as well as some helpful advice from filmmaker Ken Burns. But first, here is National History Day Executive Director Cathy Gorn with a look ahead to the 2021 theme, Communication in History: The Key to Understanding:



More Information

To enter the National History Day Contest, start by reading the Creating a Project page and contacting your State/Affiliate Coordinator to inquire about entering at the local or school level of your contest. The top two entries in each category at the Affiliate Contest level will be invited to the National Contest. Due to COVID-19, the National Contest will be held virtually, June 14-20, 2020.

Here's Ken Burns with some advice about what you can do to improve your Breaking Barriers in History projects:

WATCH Ken's introduction to his curated Breaking Barriers playlist for ideas and inspiration:

WATCH the full playlist on Ken's UNUM website hosted by PBS HERE.



Helpful Links
Partner Resources for Research

Creating a Project

Student Resources

Project Categories

Project Examples



See past annual themes.

2020 Contest Theme Book

Download the Breaking Barriers in History theme book.

2020 Theme Graphic Organizer

This SEARCH graphic organizer helps students examine historical context within the theme Breaking Barriers in History.

Theme Narrative

This PDF contains the 2020 theme narrative as well as some topic suggestions.

2021 Theme Narrative

Want a sneak peek of the 2021 Communication in History: The Key to Understanding theme narrative?