Student Essay Contest: Agitate! The Legacy of Frederick Douglass and Abolition in Newark

Essay contest runs March 6th through March 25th 

Rutgers-Newark, in partnership with The Newark Board of Education and The Newark Public Library present a Student Essay Contest celebrating the legacy of Frederick Douglass.

This April, The Rutgers University-Newark Chancellor, Nancy Cantor, and the entire Newark campus will commemorate the 170th anniversary of Frederick Douglass’ visit to Newark. Many activities are planned including a performance by the New Jersey Symphony and a re-enactment of one of Mr. Douglass’ speeches. Kenneth Morris, Jr., a great-great-great grandson of Frederick Douglass will be an honored guest.

Students in grades 6 through 12 are encouraged to submit their essay today! Prizes will be awarded for First, Second, and Third place essays.


Frederick Douglass was a formerly enslaved person who escaped and became a prominent activist, author and public speaker. In 1849, Mr. Douglass spoke at the First African Presbyterian Church, which was then on Plane Street, now University Avenue, where the Rutgers Athletic Field is located. Douglass often spoke about ways to improve the educational, political and economic status of African Americans.

Students are encouraged to visit their school library or The Newark Public Library to learn more about Frederick Douglass.

Students entering the contest are to answer one of two questions: 

  1. Identify and describe the actions of someone who is alive today who has the same vision for freedom and equality as Frederick Douglass.
  2. If he were alive today, what injustices might Frederick Douglass oppose in 2019?

Rules for Entry

  • Only students currently in grades 6 through 12 are eligible to participate.
  • All essays must be handwritten or typed by the student.
  • Essays should be between 250-500 words in length.
  • Only one essay per student may be submitted.
  • Each essay should include the student’s name, grade level, school name, principal’s name and teacher’s name and must be submitted to their teacher.

Essays will be judged on the following criteria: 

  • Clear expression of ideas that are on topic
  • Originality
  • Organization
  • Grammar/Spelling
  • Neatness

Click here to view the flyer with full details, rules, and eligibility.