Abigail Crowe loves history. The home-schooled 11-year-old from Baton Rouge enjoys learning interesting facts about Louisiana’s past and hopes to become a historian when she grows up.
So she jumped at the chance to participate in the regional National History Day contest held at the West Baton Rouge Museum. She and about 200 other middle and high school students from 12 parishes converged on the museum Saturday with exhibits and costumes, hoping for a chance to attend a national competition this summer.
Abigail said she wanted her project have a local theme, so she chose school segregation and focused on West Baton Rouge Parish, where battles over integrating schools resulted in the closure of the all-black Cohn High School in 1969. Other students delved into national and international topics, including malaria, women’s suffrage and the technological evolution of computer and telephones.
Students who placed first, second, third and fourth in their categories on Saturday will advance to a state competition next month at the National WWII Museum in New Orleans. State winners from around the country will then go to Washington, D.C., in June to compete for cash prizes.
Contestants could do their projects on any topic as long as it is tied to this year’s National History Day theme, “Exploration, Encounter, Exchange in History.” They had several options for presenting, including a traditional research paper and poster board as well as a website, a documentary or a performance.
For Abigail, the contest was an opportunity to learn more about the landmark Plessy v. Ferguson and Brown v. Board of Education cases and ramifications that the cases had locally.
In West Baton Rouge Parish, the School Board repeatedly refused to integrate its schools in the 1960s but eventually did so after a flurry of legal activity in 1969, Abigail said. With an all-black school no longer needed, Cohn High was shut down in 1969, and its buildings were demolished in 2014.
“They wanted integration, but they lost what they loved,” Abigail said. “They loved Cohn.”
Sisters Catie Booksh, 11, and Ainsley Booksh, 12, entered the contest with a documentary about a topic close to their heart: the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and its affiliate clinic in Baton Rouge, where their 4-year-old cousin Liam Thistlethwaite was recently treated for cancer.
The sisters, who live in Plaquemine and attend MSA West’s Starship program, discussed the hospital’s founding in 1962 and the progress its researchers have made in identifying better cancer treatments in their video. They also included interviews with Liam’s doctors at the local clinic, who talked about acute lymphoblastic leukemia, one of the most common cancers in children, and St. Jude’s role in improving survival rates.
“They’re changing the history for the future,” Ainsley said.
First-place winners include:
Cole Johnson: documentary, junior individual
Celeste Cavell: documentary, junior group
Hannah Kelley: documentary, junior group
John Thomas Hernandez: documentary, junior group
Kayleigh Snell: Documentary, senior individual
Gabrielle Hernandez: Documentary, senior group
Kati Cavalier: Documentary, senior group
Lauren Burgess: Documentary, senior group
Alania Walker: Exhibit, junior individual
Myah Davis: Exhibit, junior group
Kayleigh Rhymer: Exhibit, junior group
Caroline Blanchard: Exhibit, junior group
Maggie Lambert: Exhibit, senior individual
Jaques Monceret: Exhibit, senior group
Nick McCaulley: Exhibit, senior group
Mason Kirkland: Exhibit, senior group
Kennedy Jackson: Website, junior individual
Audrey Poche: Website, junior group
Lauren Bradley: Website, junior group
Macie Turner: Website, junior group
Hieu Nguyen: Website, senior individual
Dalyn Turner: Website, senior group
Zoie Spears: Website, senior group
Lauren Perkins: Performance, junior individual
Darrien Gage: Performance, junior group
Ira Anderson: Performance, junior group
Dwayne Riley: Performance, junior group
Jonathan Penn: Performance, junior group
Bryce Gulotta: Performance, senior individual
Mia Smith: Performance, senior group
Kirsten Swanson: Performance, senior group
Khai LeJune: Paper, junior individual
Caleb Jones: Paper, senior Individual