Skip to content

Barbara Competition Essay Historical Jordan

Talented young writers from high schools across Texas were honored at UIL’s Barbara Jordan Historical Essay Competition and the Latino History Essay Competition on Wednesday, May 25 at UT Austin.

The annual competition encourages students to research, interview and write about African Americans and Latino/as in their local communities, preserving their elders’ oral histories and inspiring exchange between the generations.

Winning essays are archived in the Briscoe Center for American History and the Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection at UT Austin. The Briscoe Center was currently under construction, however the students were able to tour the Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection, where their essays will be available for scholarly research.

“When you see the incredible collection that is housed at the Benson Center, I hope you’ll think about the contribution that you made,” said UIL Program Administrator David Trussell in his opening remarks. “Through your work you have joined a very important effort to shine the spotlight on the all too often overlooked contributions and accomplishments of African American and Latino citizens in Texas.”

Founded in 1995 as an event sponsored by The University of Texas at Austin, the Barbara Jordan Historical Essay Competition moved to its new home with UIL Academics in 2011-2012. Below is a listing of the top six finalists.

  • First Place – Carolyn Plein, Leander High School
  • Second Place – Katrina Garcia, Center High School
  • Third Place – Bryson Urquidez, Weatherford High School
  • Fourth Place – Owen Walker, Burleson Centennial High School
  • Fifth Place – Erika Hernandez, Harlingen High School South
  • Sixth Place – Ishita Neeraj, Midland Lee Freshman High School

Founded in 2011 by the DDCE, the Latino History Essay Competition moved to UIL Academics in 2012. Below is a listing of the top six finalists.

  • First Place – Bhavesh Sayal, Cypress Falls High School
  • Second Place – Valentin Fernandez, Kaufman High School
  • Third Place – Hemma Uzoh, Harlingen South High School
  • Fourth Place – Cristina Trevino, Ann Richards School
  • Fifth Place – Victoria Quintanilla, PSJA Early College High School
  • Sixth Place – Micaela Garza Keyes, Harlingen South High School


Frequently Asked Questions

Yes. The theme encourages students to find an essay topic who is not well-known; however, an essay will not be disqualified if the topic focuses on someone who is arguably well known to some. It is important to remind the writer that some topics are utilized multiple times in one school year, so finding a subject who is lesser known could help make the essay stand out.

  • The essay guidelines specify original research - what does this mean?

An essay based on original research should add material to the historical record of African Americans in Texas. This could mean focusing on an individual who is not well-known outside your own community, but who made important contributions in culture, in education, in politics, etc. Those contributions might have affected primarily your community, or they might have also had a broader impact in Texas.

Original research could also mean focusing on a person or group who played an important but not necessarily widely known role in a larger event or movement. 

  •  What type of research should I focus on?

Firsthand accounts are the best sources - look for opportunities to conduct an interview with your subject. If your subject is deceased, find people who knew or worked with him or her and interview them.

You should also search for supporting primary sources of information such as letters, speeches, newspaper articles from the time you are researching, etc.

Secondary sources such as encylopedias and history books can be helpful in finding and documenting primary sources, as well as finding material that provides context and background.

Once you've selected a potential topic, secondary references can help you find primary source material, as noted above. Consult your teachers for guidance. Librarians can also be important resources in helping you find and document your sources.

The Internet is a valuable tool for research - some primary source documents are available online, and there are websites that contain useful reference material. HOWEVER, your essay should not be based entirely on Internet sources. Extra consideration will be given to works that include first-person interviews and documentation that is not readily available on the Internet.

Remember also that personal websites can be unreliable sources of information. Information gained from a personal website must be corroborated with a more reliable source.

  • Do I need an annotated bibliography?

Only a bibliography is required, not an annotated version. However, you might want to consider the use of an annotated bibliography, since it could be helpful to judges in better understanding the elements of your research.

  • If I am selected as a state finalist, am I guaranteed scholarship money? If I receive a state medal (1st place - 6th place), am I guaranteed scholarship money?

No. Students who are selected as state finalists and medalists are not guaranteed a monetary award. Instead, all state finalists are automatically eligible to apply for the hundreds of scholarships available through the Texas Interscholastic League Foundation:

Students selected as state finalists are highly encouraged to apply for TILF scholarships as seniors. If a student is a finalist before he or she is a senior, that student should wait until being a senior to apply.