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2015 National History Day in Iowa program kicks off this week with Civil Rights activist Patti Miller

Posted October 20, 2014 in Web Exclusives

DES MOINES – An Iowa native and Civil Rights activist who worked with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and spent time in Mississippi during Freedom Summer 1964 highlights this week’s kickoff to the National History Day in Iowa’s “2015 Leadership & Legacy: Iowa’s Role in Freedom Summer” program at the State Historical Museum of Iowa. The State Historical Museum is overseen by the State Historical Society of Iowa (SHSI), a division of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs.

Patti Miller will discuss her experiences as a Civil Rights activist along with other civil rights leaders and their legacies. The program kicks off the 2015 National History Day in Iowa competition and is designed for teachers and students who will participate in workshops facilitated by professors, archivists and museum professionals from across Iowa.

As part of her visit to the State Historical Museum, Miller will preview the documentary “Return to Freedom Summer” about Iowans involved in Freedom Summer 1964 and screen the American Experience documentary “Freedom Summer.” The public is welcomed to attend:

  • American Experience Freedom Summer – Oct. 20 – 3 p.m.
  • Return to Freedom Summer – Oct. 21 – 9 a.m.

This week’s program incorporates the State Historical Museum display, “Freedom Summer 1964: Two Iowans and the Campaign for Civil Rights in Mississippi.” The display chronicles the experiences of Iowans in Freedom Summer 1964, a 10-week campaign to register African American voters in Mississippi. Rev. Frazer and Loris Thomason of Des Moines traveled to Clarksdale, Mississippi, and documented their experiences with photographs and updates for the Wakonda Christian Church. Those photographs and other documents are now part of SHSI’s Special Collections.

National History Day is a year-long education program that helps students discover historical issues, ideas, people and events. Students produce dramatic performances, imaginative exhibits, multimedia documentaries and papers based on research related to an annual theme. This years’ theme is “Leadership & Legacy in History.”

SHSI staff members Millie Frese and Katie Craven coordinate the NHD in Iowa program and were invited to College Park, Maryland, recently to discuss different teaching strategies and methods at the National History Day Coordinators Conference. Frese visited with NHD coordinators about the best tools and resources that teachers and students can access for projects, while Craven helped educators learn to use webinars and video conferencing to connect with students.

NDH students work with NHD coordinators, teachers and others to complete projects and compete in Senior and Junior divisions at school, district and state competitions. State winners advance each year to the Kenneth E. Behring National History Day Contest at the University of Maryland, where they compete against about 3,000 other student competitors from around the world.

The State Historical Museum of Iowa is at 600 E. Locust Street in Des Moines. Hours are 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Monday-Saturday and noon-4:30 p.m. Sunday. Admission is free. More information is available at

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