National History Day


For middle school and high school students participating in the Wisconsin competitions of National History Day in Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Labor History Society annually offers prizes for the best projects that are based on American labor history.  For the 2015-2016 school year, the student project will need to be based on the theme, “Exploration, Encounter, Exchange in History.”  

WLHS is pleased to participate in the competitions, led in Wisconsin by the Wisconsin Historical Society, nad to offer two $50 awards at each of the eight Wisconsin REGIONAL events for the best American labor history entries in any of the competition categories; one award will be given at the junior age level (grades 6-8) and one award at the senior age level (grades 9-12).  Two $100 awards are offered for both the junior and senior levels at the Wisconsin History Day STATE finals.

Click here  for information about the National History Day in Wisconsin program.


The exhibits for 2015-16 must fit the theme of “Exploration, Encounter, Exchange in History.” Students are encouraged to use creativity to fashion exhibits that portray risk and original effort, that may have been controversial or ground-breaking, and that have had an impact with wide groups of people. Labor history offers plenty of examples for students to find topics to portray. Some topics could include:

  • The Bay View Tragedy of 1886 in Milwaukee that involved the 8-hour-day struggle.  How did that event shape future of Milwaukee and Wisconsin?
  • The collaboration of urban Socialists of the labor movement and rural, smalltown Progressives that established Wisconsin’s progressive reforms.  Locate the leaders of that collaboration and outline their successes.
  • Victor Berger, Socialist who went to jail for his beliefs and helped create Milwaukee’s good government traditions with labor’s support.  Show illustrations of his accomplishments; demonstrate his struggle
  • Arnold Zander the state worker who founded AFSCME, the nation’s largest public employee union, in Madison. How did he interest public employees to use the union movement to further their causes?
  • In 1959, Wisconsin became the first state to pass a law granting collective bargaining rights to public employees.  What impact did this have on public services, organized labor and the labor relations in the United States?
  • Since the 1960s, the United States has shifted from an industrial to a service-based economy.  How has this shaped the lives of working people and organized labor in the decades since?
  • The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 abolished longstanding restrictions on immigration from Europe, Asia and Africa, but placed new restrictions of immigration from the Americas.  How did this effect patterns of immigration, debates over the effects of immigration, and the relationships between immigrants and other workers in the United States?

For more background on the theme and additional ideas, look at this from the Wisconsin Historical Society.

For downloadable flyer about Labor History Awards that may be distributed to teachers, students and others, click here.

TYPES OF PROJECTS: Students may enter in one of nine categories:

Papers (individual only), individual exhibit, group exhibit, individual performance, group performance, individual documentary, group documentary, individual web site, and group web site.