Romig Middle School trio wins national history award

Mike Dunham
Anchorage School District

Three students at Romig Middle School have won a special award at the 2012 National History Day contest, held at the University of Maryland earlier this month.

Hallie Whitmore, Mia Keyser and Challis Debenham -- who will enter ninth grade at Romig this fall -- won the Capt. Ken Coskey Naval History Award for their group documentary titled "The Trials of Truth: The Amistad Revolution."

The students incorporated interviews with University of Alaska Anchorage history professor Forrest Nabors and University of Alabama professor Howard Jones, the author of "Mutiny on the Amistad," which recounts the takeover of a Spanish ship by Africans who were being transported to the Americas as slaves in 1839. The event is notable for the trial that took place after the Africans were taken into custody by the United States Coast Guard. Various parties, including the captain of the Coast Guard vessel that apprehended them, claimed they were cargo and subject to salvage laws. The Africans countered that they were free people who had been kidnapped. They were defended in court by Massachusetts Congressman John Quincy Adams, the former president of the United States, and, after protracted proceedings, were released and returned to Africa.

The Coskey prize includes an award of $500.

It was the trio's third trip to the contest, the culmination of a year-long program in which students grades six through 12 vie for honors in historical research. Nine general awards are presented in junior and senior high school divisions regarding overall individual and group achievements. Twenty special awards in subjects ranging from World War II to Irish-Americans to baseball -- and the Coskey prize -- are also presented.

In addition to the national prizes, awards are presented in various categories for each of the 50 states. Alaska's winners included Hanna Hellen, who will also be entering ninth grade at Romig, who won the Outstanding State Award for the Junior Division for her documentary titled "Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act: Revolution in Native Rights."

Cory Johnson, who will be a junior at Fairbanks' West Valley High School this fall, received the Outstanding State Award for the Senior Division with his documentary titled "Bill Koch and the Revolution of Skate Skiing." Krishna Nautiyal, entering eighth grade at Barnette Magnet School, also in Fairbanks, won the Salute to Freedom Award for his paper titled "Her Liberty Born in Blood: Haiti's Storm of Revolutionary Turbulence."

Anchorage Daily News