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National History Day Finds Some Sugar

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This weekend, I had the chance to travel to the West Baton Rouge Museum’s 16th annual Sugar Fest to promote The National History Day program to students and parents in the Baton Rouge area.  The West Baton Rouge Museum is one of four regional partners for National History Day in Louisiana, with the Louisiana State Exhibit Museum in Shreveport, the Chennault Aviation & Military Museum in Monroe, and the University of Louisiana Lafayette serving as the additional regional sponsors.  As the program grows throughout Louisiana, our regional partners are vital in serving students and teachers in their regions.

The Sugar Fest was a celebration of South Louisiana history.  Volunteers in dress from various periods were present throughout the grounds.  A spot-on Abraham Lincoln impersonator traveled the grounds to tell stories of growing up in Kentucky and running for political office in Illinois.  Fresh sugar cane was everywhere with guests getting the opportunity to chew on it.  Other food demonstrations proved very popular.  One amusing highlight was a woman from Illinois who was curious as to why a man kept grinding up sassafras leaves.  When he responded that he was making filé, she asked him “what’s that for?”  For those not from Louisiana, filé is a thickening agent used in gumbo.  

I had the privilege of meeting a student who displayed an especially strong interest in history.  He has been to The National WWII Museum at least five times, and has seen Beyond All Boundaries three times.  He had already heard that the West Baton Rouge Museum was holding a history contest, and he ran to find me to help unload my truck.  He made several visits to my booth during the day to talk about World War II and history.   It’s still early in the school year, but I’m pretty sure he’ll be a contender.

The most exciting part about bringing on new partners for National History Day is the expertise they bring with them.  The National WWII Museum obviously assists students with WWII topics, but some students may want to research the economic revolution that sugar crops brought to Louisiana.  Others may want to focus on the 1953 Baton Rouge bus boycott.  With their new exhibit, A World Turned Upside Down:  Civil War Home Front Perspectives, the Civil War is another topic that the West Baton Rouge Museum can use their expertise to guide our next generation of historians.

This post by Louisiana History Day Coordinator Nathan Huegen.

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