Knowing history compels me to share it and make it.

(Gloria Conatser, a student at Waco High,  was one of 25 students nationwide selected to present their National History Day documentaries at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture at this year’s National History Day event.  In today’s blog post she shares a bit about what this opportunity meant to her. — ALW )

“Those who don’t know history are bound to repeat it.” – George Santayana

By Gloria Conatser

I have always bothered my teachers with my questions, and the best of them have humored my curiosity. National History Day has allowed me to pursue the answers to my questions myself. In the past six years since I began creating documentaries, every question that I have been able to answer has uncovered ten more for me to follow. Every year, this year especially, my products have been about revealing the events that shaped today.

A big recurring theme in every corner of history is the presence of conflict, and this year’s National History Day theme, “Conflict and Compromise” could be interpreted in many ways.

The approach that I chose to take was one that highlights the dark angle of compromise. Merriam-Webster describes it as, “a concession to something derogatory or prejudicial.” The title of my documentary this year is “3/5ths to Thirteenth: The American Compromise of Black Livelihood.” As I explored the 3/5ths Compromise and Thirteenth Amendment, and outlined their modern implications, I learned that the livelihood of Black Americans has been compromised throughout our history by people who don’t have to face the consequences.

National History Day has given me the opportunity to exercise mental muscles in a way that is not a standard in the public education system. I have had the freedom to analyze hidden histories, create a product that reflects my research, and hold my own among academic leaders from the local to the national level.

During the week of National History Day, I had the opportunity to present my documentary at the new Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. A few days before flying to Washington D.C. I was notified that my work had been selected. The day after National History Day judging I was featured in the Smithsonian and offered an experience that I never would have been able to dream of.

The ultimate takeaway from these years as a National History Day student has been experience: experiencing perspectives that I would otherwise be blind to, experiencing locations many can only dream of, and experiencing the fulfillment of earning these opportunities myself. Practically speaking, I am as capable as most people, and vice versa, but the difference is that I am aware of my abilities and the potential for impact that I have, and that has made all the difference.

Gloria Conatser is a rising senior at Waco High. This is her fifth Year competing at National History Day. Gloria hopes to study engineering or biology and ultimately become an Astronaut. She also aspires to help create a more equal future through her career.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email [email protected] for more information.


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