WASHINGTON, D.C. – Over 3,000 young historians from around the world are bound for National History Day® at the University of Maryland, College Park. Middle and high school students have researched and revised their projects for months. They’ve cut their teeth in competition at the regional and state levels. Now, after multiple rounds of Q&A, critique, and evaluation, they’ve earned their place at the National Contest and will vie for victory June 9-13.

The road to the National Contest is long. Beginning last fall, students researched topics and prepared projects related to the 2019 theme, Triumph & Tragedy in History. Through documentaries, exhibits, papers, performances, and websites, they competed in their own schools and districts, with top entries moving on to affiliate competitions held in every state, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, China, Korea, and South Asia. From there, the top two entries in each category were invited to Washington, D.C. to face off against their peers on the national stage.

Students are competing for a portion of more than $80,000 in prizes plus three college scholarships. First, second, and third place prizes in each category are worth $1,000, $500, and $250, respectively. Students are also eligible for more than two dozen special awards sponsored by various organizations, with values ranging from $250 to $10,000.

Three senior division students will receive the grand prize of a college scholarship. The top prize is the Van Tassel Founder’s Award, a four-year scholarship to Case Western Reserve University. Partial scholarships are awarded by both Chaminade University in Hawaii and the University of Maryland, College Park.

In their Triumph & Tragedy research, students heard the voices of Holocaust survivors and former slaves, formed special connections with war heroes and suffragists, and gained perspective from scientists and inventors who persevered through hundreds of failed attempts before relishing success. From well-known historical figures to stories previously untold, students learned that history impacts us all. Their hard-work presents a challenging task for the volunteers serving as judges, who will evaluate projects for historical quality, relation to the theme, and clarity of presentation. Each three-person panel of judges is comprised of historians, educators, and volunteers.

“I learn something new from these dedicated and passionate students every year,” said National History Day Executive Director Cathy Gorn. “Not only do they gain invaluable academic experience, but they become experts themselves in their topics. The adults involved learn stories and lessons from history they'd never known. National History Day is rewarding for everyone involved, and I am eager to see what the 2019 National Contest has in store!”

The contest schedule for the week is as follows:

  • Sunday, June 9: Welcome Ceremony at 6:30 p.m. on McKeldin Mall, Keynote: Judy Richardson
  • Monday, June 10: Junior Division (Middle school) Competition in all categories
  • Tuesday, June 11: Senior Division (High School) Competition in all categories
  • Thursday, June 13: The National Contest Awards Ceremony is at 8:30 a.m. at the Xfinity Center

In addition to the competition, National History Day worked with museums and organizations in the Washington, D.C. metro area to create NHD Explore (NHDx). This series of programs during the week-long contest allows students to further their love and learning of history. Selected students will screen their documentaries at the National Museum of African American History and Culture and present their exhibits at the National Museum of American History. Thousands of students and their families will receive free passes to a number of museums around the area.

The National History Day Contest was created in 1974, at Case Western Reserve University by Dr. David Van Tassel. Since its inception, National History Day has grown from a contest of a few hundred students to an international, educational organization promoting the study of history in education. More than half a million students, who are guided by more than 30,000 teachers, participate in this project-based academic competition every year.

About National History Day (NHD): NHD is a non-profit organization based in College Park, 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 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 Crown Family Foundation, The Better Angels Foundation, and the Diana Davis Spencer Foundation. For more information, visit

Colleen Kennedy
Communications Director
Phone: 301-405-0536
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