To encourage youth understanding of American history, America250 sponsored the E Pluribus Unum Prize of the National History Day 2021 National Contest. Judged by more than 400 historians and education professionals, including America250’s Director of Engagement Dr. Megan Springate, contestants submitted documentaries, exhibits, papers, performances, and websites addressing the theme “Communication in History: The Key to Understanding.” On Saturday, June 19, National History Day (NHD) announced the winners through a live streamed ceremony.

This year’s winners were selected from more than half a million entries and received cash prizes between $500 and $2,000 each. From the junior division, Neal Vidyasagar and William Li of the Singapore American School took first place for their project, New York Times v. United States: Communicating First Amendment Rights of the People. From the senior division, Allen Tang, Andrew Wang, Andrew Yu, Rohin Garg, and Thomas Huang of Winston Churchill High School in Maryland won for their documentary, Taking a Seat for Justice: The 504 Sit-In.

Get to know these brilliant students and their projects.

Q&A with Neal Vidyasagar and William Li:

What sparked your interest in this topic and can you summarize your project?
Our interest in our topic occurred after watching “The Post” about the Washington Post’s publication of the Pentagon Papers. After watching the movie, we decided to look further into the story and discovered the amazing court case where the New York Times was able to defeat the U.S. government and exercise their First Amendment rights. Our project is about the 1971 Supreme Court case, “New York Times Co. v. United States” in which the federal government attempted to censor the Times’ reporting on the classified Pentagon Papers. The Times then challenged the censorship and was able to assert their First Amendment rights, which the U.S. government had been ruled to have violated.

What would you like to see for America’s future?
Our vision for the future of America is a true land of the free, where people of all backgrounds, religions, and identities feel like they belong. We wish for the country to have a socio-economic system where the American Dream can prosper. We want to see a political system that provides fair representation for all; a system that provides all with equal opportunities; a system that defines social class by ability and hard work rather than the intrinsic characteristics possessed by individuals like ethnicity or background; a system that fosters transparency and whistleblowing both within and outside the government.

If you could meet one person from U.S. history, dead or alive, who would it be? And why?
If we could meet one person from American history, it would be Alexander Hamilton. We admire the systems that Hamilton created, the foundation he established for the Federal Reserve and Treasury and his early influence on Wall Street.

Q&A with Allen Tang, Andrew Wang, Andrew Yu, Rohin Garg, and Thomas Huang:

What sparked your interest in this topic and can you summarize your project?
We decided to address a less prominent, but incredibly impactful event that perfectly exemplifies the importance of communication in history: the 504 Sit-in. Our interest in the disability rights movement inspired us to look at its origins.

Our documentary featured the 504 Sit-in, the longest nonviolent occupation of a federal building, led by Judith Heumann. Activists demanded the passage and implementation of the Section 504 regulations, which provides explicit rights for people living with disabilities. The political pressure created by the national media attention led to the signing of the Section 504 regulations, increasing disability accommodations and paving the way for future legislation that would help millions.

What would you like to see for America’s future?
While the 504 Sit-in led to substantial progress for the disability rights movement, not all bases were covered and issues of ableism still persist. Some older buildings don’t provide accommodations for those living with disabilities, while most websites lack features such as text to speech. As a result, disability rights activists are still fighting to increase accessibility and spread awareness around ableism.

In America’s future, we hope to see a broader spectrum of changes implemented to create equality for those living with disabilities. We hope to see the full scope of accommodations extended to every facet of life and wide scale de-stigmatization of people with disabilities.

If you could meet one person from U.S. history, dead or alive, who would it be? And why?
We would love the opportunity to meet Kitty Cone. Along with Heumann, Cone was one of the main organizers of the 504 Sit-in and the disability rights movement. We would love to hear her story about her efforts and experiences.