Congratulations to the Student Winners of our first Virtual National History Day Contest in Massachusetts!

by Kate Melchior, Assistant Director of Education

2020 is an unprecedented year for National History Day in Massachusetts.  While COVID-19 has turned our lives upside down in countless ways, our community rushed in to help make sure that this experience would not be cancelled for our students.  In the midst of a pandemic, 686 students from across Massachusetts presented 406 projects to 207 tireless volunteer judges, who assessed their projects in 68 teams across two rounds of judging.  There are 61 students who will continue on to represent Massachusetts at the National History Day® virtual national contest, where they will compete with students from across the country and around the world.  A huge congratulations to all of our students, teachers, parents, judges, and volunteers for making this historic competition a success!

In the 2019-2020 season, over 6,000 students from 69 schools across the Commonwealth spent the school year working hard on documentaries, papers, exhibits, websites, and performances.  This year’s theme, “Breaking Barriers in History,” inspired students to tackle some of the more complex historical moments and figures in history. Projects this year cover a wide swath of historical eras and subjects including: the history of Sesame Street, ACT UP, Deaf education, the Seattle Open Housing Campaign, Bessie Coleman, Frida Kahlo, climate change, and much more.

After competing at their school levels, hundreds of students prepared to participate in the regional and state competitions.  However, COVID-19 required a last-minute pivot to an entirely virtual competition amidst shutdowns across the state.  Through heroic effort, students and teachers submitted virtual versions of their projects, and a crew of judges volunteered to assist with our first ever state-wide History Day contest in Massachusetts!  Everyone came ready with fantastic questions, insightful and kind commentary for our students, and a willingness to be flexible about our last-minute virtual system.

On Monday, 4 May, we announced the winners of our 2020 competition in a virtual awards ceremony.  In addition to the 61 students moving on to Nationals, 98 students were awarded special prizes to honor excellence in specific areas, such as Best Use of Primary Sources, Best Project in LGBTQ+ History, and Best Project in Sports History.  You can read more about our winners and their projects here.

Thank you again to all of the students, teachers, parents, schools, and judges who supported this unprecedented competition.  Thank you as well to all of our sponsors at the Mass Cultural Council, Mass Humanities, and the Richard Saltonstall Charitable Foundation.

We welcome members of the public to learn more about the NHD program.  There is no better way than to serve as a judge at one of our competitions! Please contact us at for more information.