Making History

On Saturday, my son and I woke up BEFORE the crack of dawn to head to Richmond for the state-level National History Day competition…


At the VMFA, which is next to the Virginia Historical Society and Museum.

For weeks my son and his fellow group members toiled over their entry: a documentary on the Mongolian revolution. I sent up endless trays of food to the three boys, who spent endless late nights working on their project. This was a real challenge for my early-to-bed-early-to-rise 15 year old, who starts to turn into a pumpkin at the stroke of 8 pm. During one all-nighter I could hear one of the boys doing a voiceover at around 3 am.  Right before the assignment was due, a storm knocked out the power for days. The boys were frantic. They ended up spending the weekend finishing up their project at a dad’s office, where the power had been restored. During that blackout weekend, they managed to track down a history professor at the University of Memphis, who had written one of the scant articles they could find on their topic. They emailed him and he agreed to do a Skype interview, which they incorporated into their documentary. Their hard work paid off at the regional tournament, where they came in 2nd place for group documentaries.

At the competition on Saturday, I got to watch the documentary for the first time. As I was congratulating the boys for their impressive final product, they told me their teacher had deemed their award-winning documentary only worthy of a B. What’s more – another teacher called them into her office after the regional competition to tell them that although they had advanced to the state tournament, they really didn’t deserve to. When I expressed shock at this, my son consoled me with an A+ answer: “Eh, it’s ok. It’s good to learn how to deal with things like that in life.”

Good thing those teachers weren’t the judges:


With another 2nd place win, the boys are moving on to the national tournament. We all felt a bit like this:


Willem van Heythuysen, 2006, Kehinde Wiley, VMFA

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