Annual Oratorical Contest
Every year in December, the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site hosts an oratorical contest in the visitor center's auditorium. All students in grades 1-12 are welcome to participate. The goal of the contest is for students to experience the same transformative power of language that Frederick Douglass experienced as a young man.
All students must apply beforehand. It's easy! Just follow these steps.
1. Choose a Speech
Before applying, you need to know which one of Frederick Douglass's speeches you will be reciting. If you need help finding one, the National Park Service has compiled a list of suggested speeches, and the Teaching American History website has links to many of Frederick Douglass's speeches. Feel free to do your own research to find one of Douglass's speeches - there are a lot!
3. Memorize and Practice
Memorizing and practicing your speech is key to being an effective and captivating orator. The National Park Service has created a list of tips for memorization and tips for public speaking. You can also get tips from the Columbian Orator, a classic lesson book that Frederick Douglass used when he learned how to give speeches. Want to get an idea of how the judges will evaluate your speech? See the judge's criteria.
The "Podium Points" videos series breaks down different aspects of great oratory. Thembi Duncan (a master from Ford's Theatre) and students from Oyster-Adams Bilingual School guide you through the physical, verbal, and mental skills of oratory, and give you tips on how to practice your oratory with others. Thanks to Ford's Theatre, the National Mall and Memorial Parks, the National Park Foundation, and Meridian Hill Productions for their help in producing these videos.
4. Deliver the Speech at the Contest
On the big day, you will recite the speech on a stage in a small auditorium at the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site. The audience is usually made up of judges, other students, and their families. The atmosphere is friendly, exciting, and inspiring.