Young Douglass Orators Compete in Annual Park Service Competition

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On Dec. 23 the National Park Service announced the winners of the annual oratorical contest at the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site.  The 2016 competition, held Dec. 9 and 10, saw 80 students in grades 1-12 present a portion of a Douglass speech.  The students chose speeches that meant something to them and were judged on a system that included memorization, deportment, and delivery.

Silas Montgomery, a homeschooled Takoma Park, Md. resident, dressed as Frederick Douglass wowed the audience with his recitation of The Meaning of July Fourth to the Negro. (Photo by Shantella Sherman)
Silas Montgomery, a homeschooled Takoma Park, Md. resident, dressed as Frederick Douglass wowed the audience with his recitation of The Meaning of July Fourth to the Negro. (Photo by Shantella Sherman)

The oratorical contest provided students with opportunities for more than 30 years. There are four separate award categories: Elementary (grades 1-3); Junior (grades 4-5); Junior High (grades 6-8); and Senior High (grades 9-12). The judges were from the community in addition to members of the Frederick Douglass Memorial and Historical Association. The association provided prize money to the first, second and third place winners in each of the four categories.

“The speeches were amazing this year – as they are each year, in fact. And I am so pleased to see so many young ladies taking to the stage this year,” Marilyn Moser, an educator and reading specialist who attended the event this year. “So many were impassioned in their young deliveries and having taught for more than 60 years, I found it exhilarating.

The goal of the contest is for students to experience the same transformative power of language that Frederick Douglass experienced as a young man. The winners are: Elementary (grades 1-3): 1st place, Gabrielle Sutherland, homeschooled, Baltimore, Md.; 2nd place, Isaiah Montgomery, homeschooled, Takoma Park, Md.; 3rd place, Ethan Sutherland, homeschooled, Baltimore, Md.

Junior (grades 4-5): 1st place, Silas Montgomery, homeschooled, Takoma Park, Md.; 2nd place, Aneesh Mandapatti, Floris Elementary School, Herndon, Va.; 3rd place, Laila Brooks, Ducketts Lane Elementary School, Elkridge, Md.

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Junior High (grades 6-8): 1st place, Elijah Coles-Brown, Moody Middle School, Richmond, Va.; 2nd place, Dhruv Pai, Takoma Park Middle School, Silver Spring, Md.; 3rd place, F. Jerimah McClain, Friends Community School, College Park, Md.

Senior High (grades 9-12): 1st place, Daevon Gurley, Bard High School Early College, Baltimore, Md.; 2nd place, Daniel Bates, homeschooled, Fort Washington, Md.; 3rd place, Sudhan Chitgopkar, South Forsyth High School, Cumming, Ga.

All the winners will be invited back to Frederick Douglass National Historic Site in February 2017 to celebrate Douglass’s birthday and be recognized for their accomplishments and their school’s participation.