A personal message from Cathy Gorn, Executive Director
National History Day began in April 1974 on the campus of Case Western Reserve University. The idea was the brainchild of history professor David Van Tassel, who was worried about the decline of the humanities in general and history in particular in America’s schools. Van Tassel was particularly distressed by the boring rote memorization he saw in most history classrooms. He wanted to reinvigorate the teaching and learning of history.
He employed a contest format to motivate students to study the past—and engage in the art of historical inquiry. Van Tassel didn’t want a history-light spelling bee, instead he wanted students to ask provocative questions, conduct research, and analyze information to draw conclusions. He called it “History Day.” The name stuck, but the day turned into a year-long educational experience.
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