Every year, the National Park Service hosts an oratorical contest in the auditorium at the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site. All students ages 6 to 18 (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 by performing a part of a Douglass speech that they learn from memory before a panel of judges.
This contest is open to students of all abilities. ASL interpreters or interpreters to translate ASL to English will be provided.
We welcome students from across the country to apply!
2023 Oratorical Contest WinnersThe On-line contest was held on Thursday, November 30 and the In-person contest was held on Saturday, December 2. The winners are listed below:
1st to 3rd Grade:
4th to 6th Grade:
7th to 9th Grade:
10th to 12th Grade Winner:
Aneesh Mandapati (11th Grade)
*Please note that this video contains the contest dates from 2022.
1. Choose a Speech
Frederick Douglass wrote and gave many speeches throughout his life and career. To make things a little more simple, we have selected five of his speeches for students to choose from, so before applying, you need to know which one of the four you will be reciting.
The Poughkeepsie Speech - Delivered August 2, 1858
A Friendly Word to Maryland - Delivered November 17, 1864
What the Black Man Wants - Delivered April 1865
Frederick Douglass on Women's Suffrage - Delivered March 31, 1888
The Race Problem - Delivered October 21, 1890
Last updated: December 16, 2023