Special prizes are an excellent way for organizations and individuals to reward exceptional projects that explore specific areas of history at the Kenneth E. Behring National History Day Contest. Below is a list of current special prizes available to participants of the National Contest. To find out about special prizes at affiliate and local contests, contact your affiliate coordinator.
To see past special prize winners, visit NHD Awards.
African-American History Prize
This prize, sponsored by the National Park Service, is given in recognition of demonstrated excellence in the study of African-American history. The prize is awarded to an outstanding student project in both the Junior and Senior divisions that documents and analyzes the African-American experience. The subject(s) can be an individual, group(s), a right, challenge(s), triumph(s), or any topic that has historical significance, influence or impact. The project should explain why the subject(s) is/are important and place it/them in historical context.
American Labor History
The American Labor Studies Center is a non-profit organization whose mission is to collect, analyze, create and disseminate labor history and labor studies curricula and related materials. The American Labor Studies Center prize is awarded to an outstanding entry in any category, in either division, that involves an aspect of American labor history, including the role that individuals and/or labor organizations have played in American economic, political, legislative, social or cultural life.
Asian-American History Prize
This prize, sponsored by the National Park Service, is given in recognition of demonstrated excellence in the study of Asian-American history. The prize is awarded to an outstanding student project in both the Junior and Senior divisions that documents and analyzes the Asian-American experience. The subject(s) can be an individual, group(s), a right, challenge(s), triumph(s), or any topic that has historical significance, influence or impact. The project should explain why the subject(s) is/are important and place it/them in historical context.
Captain Ken Coskey Naval History Prize
This prize is sponsored by the Naval Historical Foundation, which has focused on preservation, education and commemoration of naval history since 1926. The prize is named for the late Captain Ken Coskey, a Vietnam War combat aviator and Prisoner of War, and former executive director of the Naval Historical Foundation. During his fifteen years in leadership roles at the Naval Historical Center and the Naval Historical Foundation, he became a strong supporter of National History Day. The award is given to the best entry on naval history in any category and both divisions.
Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers Prize
Sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), this prize is awarded in both the Junior and Senior divisions to an outstanding entry in any category that utilizes the newspaper resources that are available on the Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers web site. Each content item from Chronicling America (article, image, etc.) used for the entry must be noted in the Primary Sources section of the Annotated Bibliography and follow proper NHD citation guidelines for Web content. The Chronicling America web site provides free access to over 10 million pages of select digitized historic newspapers published between 1836 and 1922. It is produced by the National Digital Newspaper Program (NDNP), a long-term partnership between NEH and the Library of Congress to digitize representative historic newspapers from all 50 states and U.S. territories. Chronicling America currently has digitized newspapers from 39 states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia, with new content added regularly, including newspapers published in foreign languages starting with Spanish, French, German, and Italian. Primary sources are not limited to newspaper articles, but also include advertisements, images, literary prose, and other content that appears in historic newspapers. In addition to providing basic factual details about an event or topic, historic newspapers can shed light on local perspectives about a major historical event, insight into social or cultural practices, traditions, political opinions, economic circumstances, and a wealth of other historical information. For more information on NEH visit their homepage at http://www.neh.gov/.
Civil War History Prize
Sponsored by the Civil War Trust, a non-profit organization that promotes appreciation and stewardship of our nation’s historical, cultural, and environmental heritage through preservation of significant Civil War battlefields and supporting preservation and education programs. This prize is awarded to an outstanding entry in any category and from either division which focuses on the history of the American Civil War.
Corps of Discovery Prize
Sponsored by the Lewis and Clark Trail Heritage Foundation, this prize is awarded to an outstanding entry in any category, in both the Junior and Senior divisions, that best utilizes original sources [journals, letters, newspapers, maps, government records and/or oral histories, etc.] to focus on the Corps of Discovery. Topics could include the Corps of Discovery, an individual expedition member, government official, or tribal leader, natural history, international politics and exploration, cartography, the sciences, leadership, diplomacy, or the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail or a related historic site. For more information about the Lewis and Clark Trail Heritage Foundation, visit: www.lewisandclark.org.
Discovery or Exploration in History
Sponsored by the Library of Congress, this prize is awarded in the junior and senior divisions for an outstanding project in any category on American or international discovery or exploration. The Elizabeth Ridgway fund was established in memory of Ms. Ridgway, Library of Congress Education Outreach Director, for her passion for history, students, education, and the Library of Congress.
Equality in History
Sponsored by Celie and Tabitha Niehaus, this prize is awarded in both the junior and senior divisions to an outstanding entry in any category that illuminates the history of human equality, especially with respect to the role that individuals and/or organizations have played in the efforts for isolated groups (e.g., LGBT, women, and girls) to have the same status in certain respects, often including civil, voting, and property rights, freedom of speech, marriage and gender equality, and equal access to social goods and services.
George Washington Leadership in History Prize
George Washington stood at the center of the world stage through the second half or the 18th century and has continued to do so since his death in 1799. He played a pivotal role in every major event surrounding the founding of our nation in his roles as Commander in Chief, president at the Constitutional Convention, citizen farmer, and the President of the United States of America. His actions have been examples of civic responsibility, patriotism, and historic complexity over time and remain relevant in national dialogue today. The George Washington Leadership in History Prize is presented by the Washington Library at George Washington’s Mount Vernon, this $1000 prize will be awarded to outstanding projects in both the junior and senior categories that that demonstrate a clear understanding of the ideas and events defined by Washington’s life, leadership, and legacy. In addition to outstanding historical interpretation, we award special consideration to projects that seek innovative and compelling ways to tell the story of George Washington so that his timeless and relevant life are accessible to the world.
Global Peace Prize
The United States Institute of Peace (USIP) is an independent national institute, founded by Congress and dedicated to the proposition that a world without violent conflict is possible, practical, and essential for U.S. and global security. USIP is committed to increasing the knowledge and skills of young people so that they understand how conflicts are resolved, peace is achieved and how they can make a difference. This prize will be awarded in both the Junior and Senior Divisions to an outstanding entry that demonstrates America’s commitment to building peace around the world by highlighting the work of individual citizens, organizations and/or the U.S. government. Learn more at: www.usip.org.
History in the Federal Government
Sponsored by the Society for History in the Federal Government, a national professional organization open to all that are interested in federal history programs and the history of all branches of the U.S. government. The prize is awarded to the best entry in any category, in either division, which illuminates the history of the American federal government.
History of Agriculture and Rural Life
Sponsored by the Agricultural History Society the prize is awarded to the best project in either division, in any category, focused on the history of agriculture and/or rural life in any country or time period. The Agricultural Historical Society was founded in 1919 to promote the study of the history of agriculture and rural life in America and throughout the world.
History of the Physical Sciences & Technology
The History of the Physical Sciences and Technology Prize is sponsored by the American Institute of Physics Niels Bohr Library & Archives, whose mission is to preserve and make known the history of physics and the physical sciences. The prize is awarded to an outstanding entry in any category, in both the Junior and Senior divisions, which explores a person or event important to the history of science and technology. The project should explain why the subject(s) is/are important and place it/them in historical context. (Note - projects related to the biological of psychological sciences are not included in this award.)
Immigration History Award
Sponsored by the Lombardo Family, this prize is given in recognition of demonstrated excellence in the study of Immigration history. The prize is awarded to an outstanding student project in either division that documents and analyzes Immigration to the United States. The subject(s) can be an individual, group(s), a right, challenge(s), triumph(s), or any topic that has historical significance, influence or impact. The project should explain why the subjects (s) is/are important and place it/them in historical context.
Irish or Irish-American History
Sponsored by the Ancient Order of Hibernians (AOH) and Ladies Ancient Order of Hibernians (LAOH) the prizes are awarded to two projects in either junior or senior divisions, in any category. The entries must demonstrate excellence in the study or presentation of Irish/Irish-American History. The AOH and LAOH are the oldest, largest and most prominent Irish Catholic fraternal organizations in the nation. Founded in New York and Pennsylvania in 1836, its membership exceeds 100,000. The medals awarded with these prizes are in honor of Commodore John Barry, USN (1745 – 1803) who was a native of Ireland and Founder of the U.S. Navy. The AOH award is two round trip tickets to Ireland or $2,000 and the LAOH Scholarship Assistance Award is $1,500. Awards given can both be in the same division.
Latino-American History Prize
Sponsored by the National Park Service, this prize is given in recognition of demonstrated excellence in the study of Latino-American history. The prize is awarded to an outstanding student project in both the Junior and Senior divisions that documents and analyzes the Latino-American experience. The subject(s) can be an individual, group(s), a right, challenge(s), triumph(s), or any topic that has historical significance, influence or impact. The project should explain why the subject(s) is/are important and place it/them in historical context.
Lee Allen History of Baseball Award
Sponsored by the Society for American Baseball Research, an association of over 6,300 individuals who enjoy reading, writing, talking, and learning about all aspects of baseball. The Lee Allen prize honors the best entry in any category and in either division relating to baseball which best demonstrates research skills, accuracy, and an appreciation of the national pastime. The prize is named in honor of Lee Allen, the historian at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum from 1950-1969.
Sponsored by the Creativity Foundation, this prize is awarded to a student in recognition of their unique creative talents and dedication to public service. Students are nominated by their teachers and must compete at the national contest to be considered. The award winner is decided on by a council of NHD state coordinators.
The National Library of Medicine’s History of Medicine
Sponsored by the Friends of the National Library of Medicine, this prize is awarded to an outstanding entry in any category, in either the junior or senior division, that demonstrates an appreciation and knowledge of the history of medicine.
Native American History Prize
Sponsored by the National Park Service, this prize is given in recognition of demonstrated excellence in the study of Native American history. The prize is awarded to an outstanding student project in both the Junior and Senior divisions that documents and analyzes the Native American experience. The subject(s) can be an individual, group(s), a right, challenge(s), triumph(s), or any topic that has historical significance, influence or impact. The project should explain why the subject(s) is/are important and place it/them in historical context.
United States Marine Corps History
Sponsored by the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation, an organization dedicated to promoting the study of Marine Corps history and traditions, this prize is awarded to an outstanding entry in any category in either the junior or senior division that demonstrates an appreciation of Marine Corps History.
U.S. Constitution Award
Sponsored by the National Archives and Records Administration, the prize is awarded to an outstanding entry in any category and in both Junior and Senior divisions that uses the records of the Federal government to either illuminate the creation and ratification of the U.S. Constitution or to focus on Constitutional issues throughout American History.
White House History
Sponsored by the White House Historical Association, a non-profit organization dedicated to enhancing the understanding, appreciation, and enjoyment of the Executive Mansion, this prize is awarded to an outstanding project in both the Junior and Senior divisions that documents and analyzes White House history through such subjects as individual presidents, first ladies, residence staff, White House art and architecture, or important events that took place in the White House.
Sponsored by the National Women’s History Museum, this prize is awarded to the best project in either division, in any category, that focuses on the contribution, accomplishments, experiences, and perspectives of women in U.S. history.
World War I History Prize
The World War I History Prize, sponsored by the US World War I Centennial Commission, is given in recognition of demonstrated excellence in the study of World War I and its impact, nationally or internationally. The prize is awarded to an outstanding entry in both the junior and senior divisions that documents and analyzes a significant aspect of World War I, clearly demonstrating historical relevance to the theme of World War I.
World War II
Sponsored by the National World War II Museum, which illuminates the American experience during the WWII era with moving personal stories, historic artifacts and powerful interactive displays. This prize is awarded to an outstanding entry in both the junior and senior divisions that involves World War II history.
There are three collegiate scholarships awarded at the National History Day Contest. Eligible National History Day Contest participants should review the requirements below for each of the college scholarships. Students are welcome to apply to all three.
The three scholarships are to the following institutions:
Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio
Chaminade University, Honolulu, Hawaii
University of Maryland, College Park
To complete the application, click the link to the form for the university of your choice, below. This will download a Word document application that you can complete on your computer. Print your completed forms and mail them along with an official copy of your transcripts and cover letter with your name, address, telephone and school. YOU MUST SEND A TRANSCRIPT IN ORDER TO BE ELIGIBLE FOR THE SCHOLARSHIP.
Application for Case Western Reserve University
Application for University of Maryland
Application for Chaminade University
You will need to know your cumulative GPA [on a 4.0 scale], and your SAT or ACT scores, if available. The following questions must be answered in essay form as part of the application for each scholarship:
Send your scholarship materials to:
National History Day
4511 Knox Road
College Park, MD 20740
Materials must be received by May 15, 2018 to be eligible.
Some common questions related to the contest. Don't see yours answered? Email us at
Can I change the title or topic of my entry?
Students can change the title of their entry from one level of the contest to the next level. However, the topic of a project may not change once the project enters a competition (local, regional, or affiliate).
Is the 500 word limit in an exhibit category separate from the 500 word limit for the process paper?
Yes, the title page, process paper, and bibliography are considered as being separate from the exhibit and do not count towards the 500-word limit for the exhibit itself.
Can you have pictures in a paper, like illustrations, graphs, etc.?
Illustrations are acceptable. Captions do not count in the word total. Make sure that illustrations are directly related to the text, and don’t overdo them. The people who volunteer as paper judges tend to be quite text-based, and they’re probably not going to be impressed by excessive illustrations.
Can I use a fictional 1st person in a paper or performance?
Yes. At the beginning of the Category Rules for papers in the National History Day Rule Book, there’s a description of papers: “A paper is the traditional form of presenting historical research. Various types of creative writing (for example, fictional diaries, poems, etc.) are permitted, but must conform to all general and category rules. Your paper should be grammatically correct and well written.” The rules state, “A performance is a dramatic portrayal of your topic’s significance in history and must be original in production.” A performance is not simply an oral report or a recitation of facts. You can make up characters to make a broader historical point, but don’t make up history. While performances must have dramatic appeal, that appeal should not be at the expense of historical accuracy.
Therefore, it is possible to have fictional characters, for example, writing a fictional diary. However, you need to make sure that you cite sources just as you would for a traditional paper or in a performance. Most importantly, it still has to be historically accurate. You can make up the character, but the circumstances and events of the character’s life and which that character witnesses or participates in should be based on historical facts.
What is a primary source?
Primary sources are materials directly related to a topic by time or participation. These materials include letters, speeches, diaries, newspaper articles from the time, oral history interviews, documents, photographs, artifacts, or anything else that provides contemporary accounts about a person or event.
Some materials might be considered primary sources for one topic but not for another. For example, a newspaper article about D-Day (which was June 6, 1944) written in June 1944 would be a primary source; an article about D-Day written in June 2001 probably was not written by an eyewitness or participant and would not be a primary source. Similarly, Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, delivered soon after the 1863 battle, is a primary source for the Civil War, but a speech given on the 100th anniversary of the battle of Gettysburg in 1963 is not a primary source for the Civil War. If there’s any doubt about whether a source should be listed as primary or secondary, you should explain in the annotation why you chose to categorize it as you did.
Are interviews with experts primary sources?
No, an interview with an expert (a professor of Civil War history, for example) is not a primary source, UNLESS that expert actually lived through and has first-hand knowledge of the events being described.
If I find a quote from a historical figure in my textbook or another secondary source and I use the quote in my project, should I list it as a primary source?
No, quotes from historical figures which are found in secondary sources are not considered primary sources. The author of the book has processed the quotation, selecting it from the original source. Without seeing the original source for yourself, you don’t know if the quotation is taken out of context, what else was in the source, what the context was, etc.
Should I list each photograph or document individually?
You should handle this differently in notes than in the bibliography. When you are citing sources for specific pieces of information or interpretations, such as in footnotes or endnotes, you should cite the individual document or photograph. In the bibliography, however, you would cite only the collection as a whole, not all the individual items. You should include the full title of the collection (e.g., Digges-Sewall Papers or the Hutzler Collection), the institution and city or city/state where the collection is located (e.g., Maryland Historical Society, Baltimore). You can use the annotation to explain that this collection provided 7 photographs which you used in your exhibit or that collection provided14 letters which were important in helping you trace what happened. The same treatment applies to newspaper articles. In the footnotes or endnotes, you should cite the individual articles and issues of a newspaper. In the bibliography, you would list only the newspaper itself, not the individual issues or articles; you can use the annotation to explain that you used X number of days of the newspaper for your research.
How many sources should I have for my annotated bibliography?
We can’t tell you a specific number of sources, as that will vary by the topic and by the resources to which you have reasonable access. For some topics, such as the Civil War or many 20th-century US topics, there are many sources available. For other topics, such as those in ancient history or non-US history, there likely are far fewer sources available. The more good sources you have, the better, but don’t pad your bibliography. Only list items which you actually use; if you looked at a source but it didn’t help you at all, don’t list it in your bibliography.
You do need to find both primary and secondary sources. Secondary sources help you to put your topic in context, that is, to see how your topic relates to the big picture and to understand its long-term causes and consequences. Primary sources help you develop your own interpretation and make your project lively and personal.
As much as possible, your research should be balanced, considering the viewpoints of all relevant groups. That means different perspectives, different genders, different nations, different socioeconomic/ethnic/religious groups, etc. What balanced means will vary depending on your topic.