Local middle schoolers earn trip to D.C.

Published 1:29 pm Friday, July 5, 2013

Orianna Gordon, left, and Trinity Hardy, right, stand in front of the White House during their recent trip.

Orianna Gordon, left, and Trinity Hardy, right, stand in front of the White House during their recent trip.

 By Fred Guarino

The Lowndes Signal

Trinity Hardy of Hayneville Middle School and Orianna Gordon of Lowndes Middle School did not place for a title at the National History Day event held at the University of Maryland, June 9-13, but both were excited about the experience.

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The two Lowndes County public school students participated in the competition and on their free time were able to tour the monuments of Washington, D.C. and the U.S. Capitol.

Paula G. Westmoreland, gifted/talented education teacher for Lowndes County Public Schools said both “did very well” at the National History Day event and, “I am proud of them!”

This was the fourth year in a row Lowndes County public school students earned the honor to compete at the national level, Westmoreland said.

She said both Hardy and Gordon earned the right to compete at the University of Maryland when they placed first at the Alabama History Day event held April 5 at Auburn University at Montgomery.

Hardy won first place at the state level in the individual historical performance category, Westmoreland said, for her performance about Anna T. Jeanes.

According to the Legacy Museum of African American History site, motivated by the desire to promote Christianity, Jeanes, a wealthy, single Quaker from Philadelphia, became interested in the struggle of Southern blacks for education.

“At her request and with her financial support, Booker T. Washington organized a board of trustees with the goal of providing supervisors as consultants and helpers for poor rural schools,” the museum reports.

Also, the Jeanes Foundation, established in 1907, became known as the “Negro Rural School Fund.”

Hardy said she selected Jeanes because she was “thinking about black education and how it first started.” She said she knew Booker T. Washington started Tuskegee Institute, and she was looking into how he became a success in the education of African Americans and learned it was through Jeanes’ $1 million  in funds.

At the national event, Hardy said she did an individual performance of Jeanes before three judges. “I was pretty calm,” she said.

On free days when not performing, Hardy said her group went to the Smithsonian, the capitol and monuments such as the Lincoln Memorial.

She said the Lincoln memorial was her favorite because, “I never thought I would ever be so close to it.”

Hardy said they also had their photo made with Congresswoman Terri Sewell.

She said she would tell other students that the National History Day event was “a great experience to go and explore different things and communicate with different students, especially with the (state) button trading.”

Hardy is the 12-year-old daughter of Shalanda and the late Terrickos Whiting of Hayneville.

Westmoreland said Gordon won first place at the state level for her documentary “Segregation-Separate But Equal?” about the Plessy v. Ferguson case.

About.com American History reports that Homer Plessy was jailed for sitting in a railroad car designated for whites only. He was seven-eighths white and one-eighth black, but under Louisiana law, he was treated as an African-American and required to sit in the car designated for “colored” patrons.

When Plessy lost his initial court case, his appeal made it to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled 7-1 that the Louisiana law requiring races be separated did not violate the 13th or 14th amendments to the Constitution as long as facilities were equal.

The significance was that it gave legal standing to the idea of separate but equal until the 1954 Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education.

Gordon described her experience at the University of Maryland and in Washington, D.C. as “fun.”

She said her favorite stop was the Smithsonian. And she said her favorite thing was a funny exhibit about monkeys.

Gordon said she chose to do her documentary on Plessy as a result of a brain storming session and book she read about the case. She said she learned about Plessy living a life in between being considered white and being considered black.

She also said meeting Congresswoman Sewell was “exciting.”

Gordon is the 14-year-old daughter of  Ora and John Gordon of Tyler.

Westmoreland said “We do wish to thank our donors,” who helped fund the trip, “most notably the Lowndes County Commission, Cecil Messer of Pat’s Kitchen and Dr. O.L. Hubert on behalf of Parks Pharmacy in Hayneville.”

Hubert said, “We very much support higher education.”