Jennifer Klein, a junior at Lee High School in Midland, won first place in the 14th annual Barbara Jordan Historical Essay Competition for her essay, “Diligence and Hope: The Story of Viola Coleman.”
Klein received a $2,500 scholarship and a gold trophy at the closing ceremonies of the 23rd annual Heman Sweatt Symposium on Civil Rights at The University of Texas at Austin on April 17.
Hillary Ragsdale, a senior at Linden-Kildare High School in Linden, won second place, receiving a $1,500 scholarship and a trophy for her essay, “Bobby Mercer Oliver: The Texas Blues King.” Grace O’Neal, a junior at the Texas Academy of Leadership in the Humanities in Beaumont, won third place, receiving a scholarship of $1,000 and a trophy for her essay, “Standing on the Shoulders of Giants: The Life of Dr. Richard L. Price.”
Sponsored by the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement at The University of Texas at Austin, the Barbara Jordan Historical Essay Competition is open to Texas students in grades 9 through 12. The competition encourages students to research, interview and write essays about African Americans in their local communities, preserving their elders’ oral histories and inspiring exchange between the generations. Winning essays are archived in the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History at The University of Texas at Austin and are available for scholarly research.
In addition to the top three essayists, 14 students from across the state were selected as regional winners and were honored at the April 17 ceremony. Regional winners received commemorative medallions for their essays on the theme “African Americans in Texas: Past and Present.”
The competition commemorates the life of Barbara Jordan, state senator, congresswoman and teacher, and one of Texas’ most influential leaders during the second half of the 20th century. Since 1996, more than $75,000 has been awarded to Texas students through the competition. The scholarship awards may be used at any college or university.
“This essay competition invites students to conduct primary research and engage with their elders who experienced significant events in African American history first-hand,” said Gregory J. Vincent, vice president for diversity and community engagement. “Many young people don’t realize what African Americans experienced during the civil rights movement and prior to that movement. In these essays, one can witness our state’s history being passed down from generation to generation, coming alive and taking on a new voice.”