West Tennessee History Day

This webpage is out of date, please go here for WTHD information.


Tennessee History Day, sponsored by the Tennessee Historical Society, is the official state affiliate of National History Day. The state is divided into six districts for local competitions. The Department of History at The University of Memphis hosts West Tennessee History Day, the district competition for students in the western part of Tennessee. Dr Susan O’Donovan is the coordinator.

West Tennessee History Day in 2015 was held on 21 February. A brief report, with some pictures, is available on our page for History Happenings.

Winners from West Tennessee History Day participated in Tennessee History Day on 11 April in Nashville. Eight projects placed third, three placed second, and four placed first. No district in the state exceeded that total of prize winners. Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett issued a news release on 16 April that contained a complete list of winners.

Secretary Hargett’s news release of  25 June reported that in the national competition, held 14-18 June at the University of Maryland-College Park, Areej Malley of Pleasant View School in Memphis was recognized in three different ways. She won a bronze medal in the senior individual paper category and earned a four-year scholarship to the University of Maryland, the host of the annual event. She will also be Tennessee's representative at the National World War II Museum "Campaigns of Courage: The Road to Tokyo" in December. Her teacher at Pleasant View School was Hamzah Abdul-Malik.

Maya Harris and Logan Miller of Dyersburg High School were selected to showcase their exhibit at the National Museum of American History. Their project, “Red Tails Fight Red Bands Abroad and Red Tape at Home,” with Jeff Gholson as their teacher, depicted the efforts of the Tuskegee Airmen in World War II to overcome discrimination. Tuskegee Airmen Lt. Col. George Hardy, Lt. Col. Charles McGee, and Tech Sgt. Norman Artis, joined the students for part of the day. “For many of our students, as well as for myself, getting to meet the Tuskegee Airmen was the highlight of the trip,” said Tennessee History Day coordinator Jennifer C. Core. “Maya and Logan's project demonstrates what History Day is all about — getting close to the primary sources, in this case living veterans, learning about a particular time period, and interpreting the material for an audience. I hope that all of our participants have such an electrifying encounter with history and research.”

The project on the Tuskegee Airmen was the subject of an extensive article written by Lisa Sikkink for the Provost’s Blog under the title of “Living History: Tuskegee Airmen” and posted on 29 July. 

National History Day began in 1974, when the Department of History at Case Western Reserve University began a project modeled after the popular science fairs. It now extends to all states, American Samoa, Guam, and International Schools and Department of Defense Schools in Europe. The stated goal is to provide students with opportunities to learn historical content and develop research, thinking and communication skills through the study of history, and to provide educators with resources and training to enhance classroom teaching. It is estimated that more than 600,000 students participate annually.

Competition is at two levels — junior, for middle-school students, and senior, for high-school students. Within each level, only individuals may compete in the category of historical papers, but there are both individual and group projects in exhibits, documentaries, performances, and Web sites.

In addition to discovering the exciting world of the past, National History Day also helps students develop the following attributes that are critical for future success:

  • critical thinking and problem-solving skills
  • research and reading skills
  • oral and written communication and presentation skills
  • self esteem and confidence
  • a sense of responsibility for and involvement in the democratic process

National History Day is endorsed by the following organizations:

  • American Association for State and Local History
  • American Historical Association
  • Federation of State Humanities Councils
  • National Association of Secondary School Principals
  • National Center for History in the Schools
  • National Council for History Education
  • National Council on Public History
  • National Council for the Social Studies
  • Organization of American Historians
  • Society of American Archivists

National History Day received the National Humanities Medal from President Barack Obama in 2011.

For the past several years the office of the Secretary of State of Tennessee has sponsored the program. The current Secretary of State and a strong supporter of History Day, Tre Hargett, issued press releases about the local competitions, the state competition, and the national competition during 2014.

West Tennessee History Day, 2014

The theme for 2014 was “Rights and Responsibilities in History.” West Tennessee History Day was held in the University Center, the Rose Theatre, and Mitchell Hall on 22 February 2014. Winners here advanced to the state competition held in Nashville on 12 April 2014. (Winners from the West Tennessee District competition were also honored at a dinner hosted by the Shelby County Historical Commission on 6 August.) Winners at the state level then competed nationally at the University of Maryland, College Park, on 15-19 June 2014.

In the national competition Ibtihal Malley from Pleasant View Academy in Memphis won second place in the Junior Individual Paper category with a paper on “Palestine: Refugee Rights and International Responsibilities.” Andre Clarke was the supervising teacher. Nick Drago and Jacob Levy from Lausanne Collegiate School in Memphis were selected to exhibit their Senior Group Exhibit on “‘Honor, Being a Warrior and Protecting my Homeland’: The Rights and Responsibilities of Native American Code Talkers” at the National Museum of American History. The supervising teacher was Scott Johnson. Scott Johnson from Lausanne Collegiate School in Memphis was recognized as Tennessee Teacher of the Year, Senior Level. Traci Erlandson, teacher at St. George’s Middle School in Collierville, was named a Behring Ambassador. She attended a training session in August to find ways to expand the role of National History Day in Tennessee and develop curriculum for Tennessee History Day teachers.