National History Day Presentations at the Museum of Tolerance
June 18, 2009
Middle school students from Fruitvale School District in Bakersfield, CA, visited the Museum of Tolerance to perform their National History Day presentations, before heading to the East Coast for the national finals at the University of Maryland, June 14-18, 2009. The theme for this year was ‘The Individual in History: Actions and Legacies’. The two groups participating from Fruitvale School District chose the stories of Sylvia Mendez and Elie Wiesel. The Sylvia Mendez story won first place in the National History Day competition.
Sylvia Mendez was a young Hispanic girl from Southern California who was told by the Westminster School District in Santa Ana, CA that she could not attend an all white school because of her Hispanic heritage. Sylvia’s parents then challenged the school district under Mendez vs. Westminster (CA) Board of Education in 1946. The courts found in her favor, and this important case set a precedent for Brown vs. Board of Education; which paved the way for integration and the American civil rights movement. Sylvia Mendez and her brother were in attendance for the performance. They are pictured, left, with student actors, teachers and MOT staff.
Elie Wiesel is an author, professor, Nobel Peace Prize Winner and Holocaust Survivor. He has dedicated his life, post war, to ensuring that no one forgets what happened during the Holocaust. Included in the students’ presentation honoring Elie Wiesel was the story of his survival from the Holocaust and his commitment to confronting the contemporary genocide in Darfur. In the performance, one student was dressed as a young mother powerfully pleading for help to stop the genocide in her country.
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