2024 Middle School Writing Contest

Why do you think the United States should create a
Rosenwald Schools National Park?

Deadline to Submit: April 15, 2024

Contest Details

Julius Rosenwald & Booker T. Washington Quilt Celebrating Restoration of the Pine Grove School, in St. Andrews, South Carolina. Attribution: Andrew Feiler

The Museum of the Southern Jewish Experience invites Middle School students to enter this year’s writing contest. This year’s theme is drawn from the Museum’s current special exhibition, “A Better Life for Their Children: Julius Rosenwald, Booker T. Washington, and the 4,978 Schools that Changed America”

This exhibition by photographer Andrew Feiler memorializes the Rosenwald schools, which were built across the South between 1917-1932. These schools, the vision of two important Americans – Jewish philanthropist Julius Rosenwald and African American education leader Booker T. Washington – narrowed the Black-white education gap that plagued Southern states, strengthened Black-Jewish relations, helped to build a new African American middle class, and paved the way for the Civil Rights movement. 

The work of Rosenwald, Washington, and the Black communities that built these 4,978 schools in the South is remarkable, but little known. There is currently a effort by historians and civil rights advocates to establish the Julius Rosenwald & Rosenwald Schools National Historical Park. MSJE is proud to support this campaign by encouraging people to write letters of support to their US representatives and senators.

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Your Writing Contest Prompt: 

Write a letter to your congressperson detailing why you support the campaign to create a Rosenwald Schools National Park.

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*MSJE will not forward any letters on students behalf, but students are welcome to mail their letter if they so choose.

How to Start Writing Your Letter

Have you already practiced writing persuasive letters in school? If so, use what you’ve learned. If not, don’t worry, the idea is to express your opinion in a way that makes the reader agree with you (even if they didn’t before reading your letter).

Use examples from your own experiences or interests to support your ideas, beliefs, and convictions for your letter. While you may use facts about the history of Rosenwald Schools as your starting point, don’t stop there. This is NOT a research paper, and the best letters will NOT be summaries of Rosenwald Schools history.

Your letter of support will be judged foremost for its thoughtfulness, persuasiveness, clarity of expression, and adherence to contest theme, as well as its historical accuracy, grammar, spelling, and punctuation. Museum staff will read and evaluate all entries and select the winning letters.

§ Visit MSJE’s A Better Life for this Children Special Exhibition if you are able to.

§ Read through this short Rosenwald Schools Fact Sheet.

§ Watch this short video from the Julius Rosenwald & Rosenwald Schools National Historical Park Campaign.

§ Consider these questions:

    • Why does it matter to you and your community that this history is preserved? 
    • What lessons resonate with you about the Rosenwald Schools?

Rules and Formatting Guidelines

Students and teachers at Jefferson Jacob School, in Prospect, Kentucky, circa 1920. Attribution: Andrew Feiler/The Filson Historical Society
  • Contest is open to all students (grades 5–8) in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia. You don’t have to be Jewish.
  • Your letter must be 500 words in length or less.
  • Only one letter per student may be submitted.
  • All letters should:
    • follow a conventional letter format
    • be single-spaced
    • have one-inch margins
    • include an addressee
    • be typed in 12 point font
    • be saved and submitted as a .pdf
    • Letters must be submitted via the contest website by April 15, 2024
    • When you are ready to submit, click below, fill out this simple information form, and attach your letter

Awards

First Place: $500
Second Place: $250
Third Place: $100
Winners will be notified by mid-April 2024. Winning letters will be posted on the Museum of the Southern Jewish Experience’s website, along with the names of honorable mentions.

Click here to download PDF Printable Contest Flyer to share with your community.

If you have questions about eligibility, rules, or anything, email us at info@msje.org.

2023 Essay Contest Winners:

Which Three Artifacts Would You Put In YOUR Museum of the Southern Jewish Experience?

1st Place: Leah S. – Virginia Beach, VA
“My Southern Jewish Experience”
2nd Place: Dylan R. – Nashville, TN
“Jewish Christian Crossroads in the South: A Middle Schooler’s Perspective”
3rd Place: Ezra H. – New Orleans, LA
“My MSJE”

Congratulations to our 2023 Essay Contest Winners! We received submissions from students across our 13-state Southern region and we thank all participants.