NEW ORLEANS — For its second annual writing contest, The Historic New Orleans Collection asked middle school, high school and college students to create original written works in response to one of four selections of verse penned by Black poets in New Orleans prior to the Civil War.
The prompts, excerpted from THNOC’s recently published book “Afro-Creole Poetry in French from Louisiana’s Radical Civil War-Era Newspapers,” were written as messages and conversations presented to a public audience in French-language newspapers printed in New Orleans. The authors wrote in direct response to each other, their dialogue reflecting the issues and events of their time: a country on the brink of war, racial inequality and injustice, longings for love and freedom.
With this contest, today’s 21st-century students were invited to add their original writing—poems, prose, or creative essays—to the historic conversations. The contest was open to students throughout the United States and US territories. The winning entries are listed below.
Middle school winners (grades 6-8)
- First Place: Untitled by Cecile Usdin, 8th grade, Isidore Newman School, New Orleans
- Second Place: “What Did I Do?” by Charlie Finger, 8th grade, Isidore Newman School, New Orleans
- Third Place: “Spread Thin” by Sophie Spera, 8th grade, Lycée Français de la Nouvelle-Orléans, New Orleans
- The following middle school students received honorable mentions:
- Zyquan Champagne, 7th grade, Morris Jeff Community School, New Orleans
- Stamatis Gamvrogianis, 8th grade, Brother Martin, New Orleans
- Amare Lewis, 7th grade, Morris Jeff Community School, New Orleans
High school winners (grades 9-12)
- First Place: “Grandmama’s Poem” by Deja Robinson, 11th grade, New Orleans Center for Creative Arts, New Orleans
- Second Place: “What is Love?” by Alex Nelson, 12th grade, Episcopal School of Baton Rouge, Baton Rouge, LA
- Third Place (tie): “Objects of Love” by Andrea Norwood, 12th grade, Episcopal School of Baton Rouge, Baton Rouge, LA
- Third Place (tie): “The Art of Anger” by Essence Tarrence, 11th grade, St. Charles Catholic High School, LaPlace, LA
- First Place: “A Response to Berthe D’s ‘Love’—A River Live Session” by Jorge Abadin, UCLA in Los Angeles
- Second Place: “Where’s Love?” by Lauren Trichell, Delgado Community College, New Orleans
- Third Place: “What’s Love?” by Naomi Winston, Xavier University of Louisiana, New Orleans
The judging panel included Clint Bruce, the editor and translator of “Afro-Creole Poetry” and assistant professor at Université Sainte-Anne in Nova Scotia plus New Orleans-based poets and THNOC staff.
Winners received a monetary prize—$250 for first place, $150 for second place and $75 for third place—plus copies of “Afro-Creole Poetry” as well as “Monumental: Oscar Dunn and His Radical Fight in Reconstruction Louisiana” and “Economy Hall: The Hidden History of a Free Black Brotherhood,” all published by THNOC. In addition, all winning entries have been published on THNOC’s website.
The writing contest was organized by THNOC’s education department, which hosts a variety of resources for students and educators, including lesson plans and virtual field trips on topics related to Louisiana history, tutorials for accessing the institution’s research center and its holdings, family activity kits for younger learners and paid internships for students interested in pursuing careers in history or museums. For more information, visit www.hnoc.org/education or email firstname.lastname@example.org.