Daniel Island Historical Society – Student Essay Contest 2020

Posted By Bill Payer on Jan 21, 2020 | 0 comments

Overview: Daniel Island Historical Society is launching a new initiative in 2020 to reach out to area students to encourage them to better appreciate and connect to historical topics. We seek to promote civic engagement and support the exploration of our collective memory.

We are pleased to announce a new essay contest for high school students attending school or residing in the 29492 ZIP code. The essay contest is open to students enrolled in grades 9-12.

Eligible students need not attend school on Daniel Island itself. See additional details below.

Our goal for this contest is to help expand students’ understanding of how they and their families connect with each other and with American history.

Students will exercise academic writing and historical thinking skills as they explore the interconnectedness of their lives with the past.

Contest Rules & Criteria:

  • Eligible student participants must currently be enrolled in school in grades 9-12, and reside in the 29492 ZIP code, or attend school in the ZIP code (even if they live elsewhere).  For students residing within the 29492 ZIP code, students may attend any school, whether the school is on Daniel Island, in downtown Charleston, or elsewhere.
  • Essays must be between 500-1,000 words in length, include a title page, works cited page, and a brief personal biography.
  • The essay title page must indicate the name, grade, and school for each student, and the name of your history or social studies teacher-mentor.
  • Students must consult primary and secondary sources and cite them in MLA format.
  • 1 primary source and 1 secondary source are required in advancing the ideas of each essay.
  • Essays will be submitted in PDF format via email by the close of March 31, 2020.
  • A detailed grading rubric will be made available upon request, detailing the criteria upon which each student essay will be evaluated.

Additional Guidelines:

The title page, works cited, and applicant’s personal biography should be listed on separate pages. No reference to the applicant’s name or information should be part of the essay pages or works cited page.

1) Title Page – The title page should include the following:

  • Title of the Essay
  • Applicant’s name, grade, address, phone number & email
  • Applicant’s high school’s name, address & phone number

2) Essay Pages – The essay and accompanying parts will feature these required elements:

  • Essay will be a minimum of 500 words and a maximum of 1,000 words (excluding title page, works cited page and personal biography)
  • 12-point Times New Roman font
  • Double-spaced
  • 1” margins on all sides
  • Essay pages are numbered

3) Works Cited page must include:

  • Citations in the essay and references to the works cited must be in accordance with the MLA Manual of Style.

4) Student’s Personal Biography page – The biography will:

  • Be limited to one page
  • Include a description of academic awards and achievements, school activities, community activities and plans for college

Essays which meet the criteria above will be accepted and judged equally on the following criteria:

  • Historical accuracy
  • Clarity of thought
  • Persuasiveness of argument
  • Organization and proven topic
  • Grammar and spelling
  • Documentation and use of sources

Background: Daniel Island was founded and organized by the English in 1673, having been settled and populated by the Etiwan people for many years prior to English settlement. It is a worthwhile exercise to trace the arc of Daniel Island history from the era of the Etiwan up to the present day.

Essay Prompts: As we begin 2020, consider how your own personal history, perhaps your family story, intersects with, and continues the history of Daniel Island. How and why have you come to live or go to school on Daniel Island or its immediate surroundings? Do you have historical connections to Daniel Island, or is your history rooted in some other place?

In the context of your interpretation of one primary source and one secondary source, what role do you see yourself playing in advancing the unfolding history of Daniel Island? How does your personal story continue, or mark a point of departure, from Daniel Island’s past? What opportunities and responsibilities, do you have, as a member of the Daniel Island community, to honor the past, even as we move forward into our collective future on Daniel Island?

Examples: In writing your essay you may want to begin with a primary source from which to commence your examination of Daniel Island history. That primary source might be an old deed to property, or a letter between friends, a business license, or a bill of sale. You might also start with an old photograph, a piece of art, found artifacts, a church recipe, or vintage clothing. Based on that primary source, you should ask: What can we surmise about Daniel Island’s past based on this source? How does this primary source speak to our understanding of history today?

Secondary sources such as articles or books written by experts and historians from more recent times summarize and interpret earlier historical periods and topics that will help you better understand the relevant history that you are exploring. Look for these sources online or at a local library.

Some Recommended Resources:

Michael Dahlman’s book about Daniel Island               ISBN: 9780738543574

Gilder Lehrman Institute for American History

South Carolina Historical Society                                           

South Carolina Department of Archives and History            

Charleston Library Society                               

IAAM Center for Family History                                   

Avery Research Center, College of Charleston                     

National Archives                                                            


Consult any of the sources recommended above, your school library, the Berkeley County or Charleston County Libraries, or other local libraries. Work with your history and social studies teachers, and make use of the Daniel Island Historical Society website for resources to help you respond to the prompt: https://dihistoricalsociety.com . Be creative! We welcome the traditional and the unorthodox essay alike!

Timeline & Dates:

Essays must be submitted via email in PDF format by April 17, 2020 (note this is a revision of the original deadline of March 31.)

Winners will be announced and contacted on April 21, 2020.

More revision: Original info was Contest winners should expect to attend the April 21 meeting of DIHS to be honored and to collect their prizes. That meeting is not currently expected to be held….but it’s still the announcement date.

Prizes Awarded:
1st Prize is $350, 2nd Prize is $100, and 3rd Prize is $50.
Each student author of the 3 winning essays will also receive a copy of John Conley’s book, Daniel Island Unearthed: An Archaeological Field Guide To Daniel Island’s Wando River Coastline.

*John Conley grew up and resided on Daniel Island. He graduated from high school in 2019, and is currently pursuing university studies in Great Britain.

The winning student essays will be published on the DIHS website for the duration of 2020.

Contact: Reach out to us with your questions about the essay contest.  Our email is DIHISTORICALSOCIETY@gmail.com.

Our mailing address is:

Daniel Island Historical Society, 186 Seven Farms Drive, Suite F #214, Daniel Island, SC 29492.

Essays should be submitted in PDF format to:


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