A College Preparatory Private School with Two Campuses in Suffolk, VA. Pre-Kindergarten – Grade 12.

Junior Named Essay Contest Winner

Junior Named Essay Contest Winner
In February, the Upper School’s Social Justice Club sponsored an essay competition in recognition and celebration of Black History Month. The contest was open to students in grades nine through 12 and asked students to answer the prompt below.
The United States’ civil rights movement has its origins in the Reconstruction era of the late 19th century with its largest legislative gains occurring in the 1950s and 1960s through grassroots movements and social action. Throughout this time period, there were many influential people involved in this social movement, some more well-known than others. In this creative writing piece, write from the perspective of a young adult in the 1950s and 1960s who is inspired by a person working for social change in the civil rights movement.
The essays were anonymously judged by members of the Social Justice Club and the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee, who awarded the top prize to Faith Page ’22. Faith created a fictional character, Ida Bell Scott, who is a young adult that is inspired by her namesake Ida B. Wells-Barnett, a prominent African American journalist, activist and researcher in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Throughout Faith’s story, which she modeled after a diary entry, Ida Bell Scott makes references to her friend, Thelma, who was a junior in high school at the time and an actual person. Thelma Mothershed made history as one of the Little Rock Nine, the name given to the students who first integrated Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1957.
Faith’s winning essay is included below. Congratulations, Faith!


September 29, 1957
Little Rock, Arkansas
Ida Bell Scott
Dear Ida,
I’ve got to stop writing these letters, Coretta could find them any day! That girl is only four but she’ll give them to Clark and that rascal will probably have my private thoughts printed in the paper. I know I should start this with “Dear Diary” instead of writing to my deceased namesake but it makes sense to me to do it this way. I know you’ll never see these letters Ida B., but writing to you makes me feel like you’re listening, like one day you’ll show up at my door with the answers to everything. I try to keep my thoughts inside and focus on my studies but this is too important not to write down since I can’t discuss it with anyone. Mama is so on edge that she won’t allow us to talk about it. It’s so hard to go on with life and pretend like everything is all right when Thelma could be killed any day. Everybody tells me that since President Eisenhower sent in the troops, nobody's going to end up dead but I can’t help being worried. I’ve started to bite my nails and chew my hair again and now I look as horrible on the outside as I feel on the inside. This summer I was so worried about keeping my appearance so I could look like a real college girl and now Thelma and the rest of the nine are the only thing on my mind. I even failed an english exam two days ago because of it and I never fail in english! I can’t tell mama or dad that I failed of course because they’ll kill me. Dad is always talking about how proud he is that I got into Arkansas Baptist College and that I’m going to follow in the footsteps of my namesake. He thinks I’m going to be a great writer someday just like you, the real Ida. I don’t think I have enough will for that, I plan to teach at the elementary school and just try to make a living. If I’m being honest that was always my plan, I don’t have guts like Thelma. But sometimes when I think of how terrified Thelma must feel everyday, I start to wonder why I couldn’t do something like she’s doing. Afterall, I’m the one who tutored her, I’m the one who babysat and even though I’m only three years older, I’m the one who’s an adult even if I don’t feel like one. All we talk about in our classes these days is our nine and everyone thinks I should be doing something! They all found out how close I am to Thelma and they know how good I am at writing so they figure I should write up something. Maybe I should Ida. Mama named Coretta, Booker and I after important people for a reason, even if Booker thinks his name is stupid and goes by Clark to be “supermurgitroid” (whatever that means). Reverend was talking about names just last Sunday. He said that even though we don’t have much of a choice over our names, they can make us who we are. I’m going to write something here that I haven’t even let myself think about: the SCLC. I know my plan is to become an elementary teacher, but my dream is to join the SCLC. And I was going to stick to my plan I really was, I want to stay around here and not make my parents worry, but when Dr. King started the SCLC early this year, some part of me wanted more than anything to go. The thing is it’s in Georgia and I know we can’t even afford to send me to Pine Bluff, but the other thing is that I’ve been saving since I was seven and I haven’t known what for but maybe this is it. Now don’t worry I’m not planning to leave school but I could go this summer. And maybe I can even help from here, writing and all. I don’t think I’ll ever be a Dorothy Height or anything but I can do something! Everyone needs to know what’s happening here in Little Rock. People need to know how the nine really feel. I can’t help but think about what Dr. King is doing and how much he risks everyday. I don’t know how much I’m willing to risk but I know I have to do something. I think I’ll talk to Thelma about asking her some questions. There’s no harm in writing things down and then we’ll figure out what to do with it later. I don’t want to get Thelma in trouble for telling the truth but I can’t let things go unsaid. Thelma and the rest of the nine have stories to tell and maybe I should be the one to write them. I don’t know who I am yet Ida, but I think it might be time to follow in your footsteps for a while, just until I get brave enough to make my own.
Ida Bell Scott
Works Cited “1950s Slang.” English Grammar Rules & Usage, grammar.yourdictionary.com/slang/1950-s-slang.html.
Dougan, Michael B. “Higher Education.” Encyclopedia of Arkansas, 11 Oct. 2019, encyclopediaofarkansas.net/entries/higher-education-5334/.
Johnson, Charles, and Bob Adelman. “The King Years.” The King Years - a Timeline of Martin Luther King, Jr. | King Legacy Series, www.thekinglegacy.org/content/king-years#:~:text=1957%20MLK%20forms%20the%20Southern,March%206%2C%20marking%20Ghana's%20independence.
“Thelma Jean Mothershed Wair (1940–).” Encyclopedia of Arkansas, 30 Dec. 2019, encyclopediaofarkansas.net/entries/thelma-jean-mothershed-wair-724/.


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