Virtual Oratorical Contest Guidelines

Oratorical Contest Guidelines

The 2021 Frederick Douglass Oratorical Contest Guidelines can be downloaded here.

Any questions or concerns about the Oratorical Contest should be emailed to
Step 1: Choose a Speech
Choose the Frederick Douglass speech that you want to learn to recite for your video. This year, students must choose one of the speeches (listed below) selected for the 2021 contest.

Speech given on March 31, 1888 at the International Council of Women in Washington, D.C.

Speech given on April 14, 1876 at the Dedication of the Emancipation Statue in Lincoln Park, Washington, D.C.

Speech given on May 30, 1871 in honor of Decoration Day (now known as Memorial Day) at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.

Speech given on October 14, 1845 in Cork, Ireland.

In addition to the text of the speeches, you will find historical information about the speech, where and when it was given, and other background information or historical links you can go to for more information. Knowing more about the speech and the audience for the speech will help you get into the role of orator for the speech, but may also help you to better understand the possible tone of the speech. For example, the Decoration Day speech was given at Arlington National Cemetery to honor the men who had recently lost their lives fighting for the Union, so you can expect that Frederick Douglass was not giving a light-hearted speech that made people smile or laugh. It was likely a more somber tone in respect for those who gave their lives to preserve the Union.

Step 2: Complete the Application
Download and email your application to compete between December 1 and 24 (the deadlne has been extended) to

Please address your email subject line as follows:

Oratorical Division (i.e. Elementary) [Last name] [First name]
Sample: Oratorical/Elementary Division/Smith, Jane
Step 3: Memorize and Practice
Memorizing and practicing your speech is key to being an effective 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.

The "Podium Points" series can help to teach you different aspects of great oratory. In the videos below, 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. They also give you tips on how to practice your oratory with others.
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3 minutes, 48 seconds

Overview of the physical points of good oration.

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4 minutes, 16 seconds

The vocal aspects of good oratory.

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3 minutes, 13 seconds

How to give and receive feedback.

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5 minutes, 40 seconds

Preparing for the big day.

Step 4: How you will be rated by the judges
Want to get an idea of how the judges will evaluate your speech? Click here.
Step 5: Run a Zoom Test
Click on this link to run a test on your computer:
Step 6: Look for an acceptance email from the park
Acceptance letters will be sent via email between December 16 and 18.
Student delivers oration
Participants recite their speeches from a stage in a small auditorium at the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site.

NPS/N. Johnson

Last updated: May 6, 2022

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