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The original item was published from 4/27/2023 11:01:00 AM to 4/30/2023 12:00:05 AM.

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Posted on: March 24, 2023

[ARCHIVED] Historical Commission Sponsors Student Essay Contest

Jamestown monument

The mission of the James City County Historical Commission is to further the efforts of the County to document, commemorate, preserve, protect, and promote the rich historical heritage of James City County.  The Commission is responsible for documenting, commemorating, and preserving the historic legacy of James City County. In support of this mission, the James City County Historical Commission is sponsoring an essay contest for Williamsburg-James City County high school students (grades 9-12). Students who reside in James City County or in the City of Williamsburg and attend a public or private school or are home-schooled are eligible to participate.

The essay should be 1,000-1,500 words (4-6 pages, double-spaced) on one of the following topics:

  1. The Railroad. James City County has a rich history with the railroad. Summarize the history of the railroad in James City County from 1860 to the present. Identify the rail lines that came through James City County and include the location of the train depots and warehouses. Where did the lines originate and end? Were the lines both passenger and freight? What were the main products shipped to and from James City County?  Describe how the rail service changed over the years and what service we have today.
  2. African American Schools. Schools for African American students were created in James City County early in our history and some continued well into the twentieth century.  Some of those schools were short lived, but others continued for decades. Identify the earliest schools and tell who created them and their purpose.  What were the Rosenthal schools and when were they started and when were they closed?  What were the local and state laws that controlled the education of African American students?  When did segregated schools come to an end in JCC?
  3. Lady Frances Berkeley. Frances Culpeper was arguably Virginia’s most notable 17th century woman.  She had attracted the attention of the aging Virginia Governor Sir William Berkeley.  After her husband’s death she married the Governor and became Lady Frances Berkeley and mistress of his estate, Green Spring, in James City County. At Governor Berkeley’s death, Green Spring and his vast fortune was left to Lady Berkeley.  Summarize Lady Berkeley’s life.  Include her accomplishments and notable influences.  Explain how these impacted our region’s early development and history.

The paper should include citations - footnotes or endnotes plus a bibliography. The footnotes/endnotes and bibliography will not be included in the total word count. The student should use the Chicago Manual of Style for citations. The cover page, which is not included in the total word count, should include the essay title; the student’s name, address, phone number and email address; the name of the student’s school (or “home-schooled”), and the total word count (not including the title page, footnotes/endnotes and bibliography). The first page of the essay should have the essay’s title at the top. Do not include the student’s name or other personal identifying information in the main body of the essay. Pages of the essay main body should be numbered.

Scoring Rubric

Category & Max Score
Acceptable (High)
Acceptable (Low)
Factual content (10 points)Facts are highly relevant to the topic and properly cited (9-10 points)Some relevant content; points not fully developed (7-8 points)Marginally relevant facts; little supporting detail included (6 points)Cursory treatment of the topic; little or no relevant facts presented (0-5 points)
Structure, Logic and transitions (5 points)Logical progression of ideas with well-executed transitions (5 points)Logical progression of ideas but often lacks transition (4 points)Gaps in logic or no transitions (3 points)Disorganized; written as a stream of disconnected thoughts (0-2 points)
Punctuation, Spelling and presentation (5 points)Correct punctuation and spelling; correct Chicago format as specified (5 points)A few (less than 3) punctuation, spelling and format errors (4 points)Occasional (3-5) punctuation, spelling and format errors (2-3 points)Frequent (more than 5) punctuation, spelling and format errors (0 points)
Analysis: Critical and original thought, supported by examples (30 points)Central idea is well developed; clarity of purpose evident throughout; abundance of evidence of thought, analysis and/or insight; evidence and examples are specific and highly relevant (26-30 points)Central idea and clarity of purpose are generally evident throughout the essay; evidence of thought, analysis and/or insight; supporting evidence and examples are relevant (16-25 points)The central idea is expressed, but vague or too broad; some sense of purpose is maintained; some evidence of thought, analysis and/or insight; there are some examples and evidence, though general (11-15 points)Central idea and clarity of purpose are absent or incompletely expressed and maintained; little or no evidence of critical, careful thought or analysis and/or insight; few, if any, relevant examples or supporting evidence (0-10 points)

Submit Your Entry Below

Award winners will be notified by Friday, May 26, 2023. Winners will be invited to a public meeting of the James City County Board of Supervisors for an award presentation (date to be determined).

  • First prize: $1,500
  • Second prize: $500
  • Third prize: $250

Media Contact:
Paul Holt, Director of Community Development and Planning

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