treeAs any writer who has submitted to the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards knows, the written word has power: the power to express ideas, to allow writers of the past to speak with readers of today, and to shape nations. On September 17, 1787, delegates to the Philadelphia Convention signed the United States Constitution. More than two hundred years later, our Constitution continues to play a pivotal role in the governance of our nation. Each year, the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia celebrates Constitution Day—September 17—to honor the signing of such an important document.

The American National Tree, a popular exhibit at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, tells the stories of Americans whose actions have helped write the story of the Constitution. On September 17, a new story will be added—and you may be its scholarship-winning author!

All rising 8-12 graders who have earned a Gold Key in the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards can enter. Participants must write a 250-500 word biographical essay on one of the historical Americans listed below. Essays are due no later than August 3, 2015.

If your essay is selected, it will be added to the tree on September 17, you will be invited to Philadelphia to see your essay added to the tree, and you will earn a $1,000 scholarship!

Send your essay to:
American National Tree Award
Scholastic Art & Writing Awards
557 Broadway, New York, NY, 10012

Or email it to with the subject line: American National Tree Award

Be sure to include your name and email address with your submission! Have fun, and good luck!

The 2015 American National Tree Nominees

John Marshall was the fourth Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. His court opinions helped lay the basis for United States constitutional law and made the Supreme Court an equal branch of government along with the legislative and executive branches. Marshall dominated the Court for over three decades and played a significant role in the development of the American legal system.

Victoria Woodhull was a leader of the woman’s suffrage movement. In 1872, Woodhull was the first female candidate for President of the United States. An activist for women’s rights and labor reforms, Woodhull was also an advocate for the freedom to marry, divorce, and bear children without government interference.

Thaddeus Stevens was a member of the House of Representatives from Pennsylvania and one of the leaders of the Radical Republican faction of the Republican Party during the 1860s. A fierce opponent of slavery and discrimination against African-Americans, Stevens sought to secure their rights during Reconstruction, in opposition to President Andrew Johnson. As chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee during the Civil War, he played a major part in the war’s financing.

Martin Delany was an African-American abolitionist, journalist, physician, and writer, and is considered to be the grandfather of Black nationalism. He was also one of the first three blacks admitted to Harvard Medical School. He worked alongside Frederick Douglass to publish the North Star. Active in recruiting blacks for the United States Colored Troops, he was commissioned as a major, the first African-American field officer in the United States Army during the Civil War.

Samuel J. Tilden was the 25th Governor of New York and the Democratic Presidential candidate in 1876, winning a popular vote majority, but ultimately being denied victory by the electoral college. A political reformer, he worked closely with the New York City business community and led the fight against the corruption of Tammany Hall.

update 8/4: The biographical descriptions above are taken from

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