TALLAHASSEE — On Jan. 13 the Florida Department of Education and Volunteer Florida officially launched the 2023 Black History Month student art and essay contests with the theme of “Celebrating the Achievements of African American Floridians.” These contests will run through Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2023. Black History Month is celebrated each year in the month of February.
“African Americans have a long and proud history in our great state of Florida, and Black History Month is the perfect occasion to celebrate their many achievements,” said Florida Commissioner of Education Manny Diaz, Jr. “Learning about African American achievements is central to learning about Florida and America itself. I have no doubt that this year’s art and essay contest submissions will be outstanding.”
“Florida goes the extra mile to recognize the immense and historical contributions of African Americans in our great state,” said Volunteer Florida CEO Josie Tamayo. “We are proud to offer this opportunity each year to recognize outstanding students and educators in Florida for their unique efforts and talents.”
First Lady DeSantis invites students to participate in academic and creative contests throughout the month. Students in grades K-3 can participate in an art contest, and students in grades 4-12 can participate in an essay contest. Additionally, students, parents, teachers, and principals are invited to nominate full-time educators of all student grades for the Black History Month Excellence in Education Award.
About the Student Art Contest
The Black History Month Art Contest is open to all kindergarten through third-grade students in Florida. Each student will submit original, two-dimensional artwork based on this year’s theme. Four statewide winners will be selected, and each winner will receive a $100 art supplies gift card and a 1-year pass to Florida state parks.
About the Student Essay Contest
The Black History Month Essay Contest is open to all fourth through twelfth-grade students in Florida. Each student will submit one essay no longer than 500 words based on this year’s theme. Six winners will be selected: two elementary school students (grades 4–5), two middle school students (grades 6–8), and two high school students (grades 9–12). Each winner will receive a 2–year Florida College Plan scholarship provided by the Florida Prepaid College Foundation and a $100 gift card for school supplies.
In the contest, students are encouraged to write about an African American who has had a notable effect on their community. The subject of the essay should be an African American Floridian. Some examples are:
- Secretary Shevaun Harris – Secretary at the Department of Children and Families since February 2021 after a nearly two-decade career at the Agency for Health Care Administration. An innovator, spearheading the development of the State’s Canadian Prescription Drug Importation program. Served as an adjunct professor at the FSU College of Social Work and as a case manager at Big Bend Cares serving vulnerable Floridians.
- State Senator Corey Simon – Before being elected to the Florida State Senate in 2022, Simon served as the CEO of Volunteer Florida, coordinating volunteer efforts across state agencies. Simon played football at Florida State University under the legendary Coach Bobby Bowden before moving on to play in the NFL.
- Jonathan Clarkson Gibbs II – Born: September 28, 1821, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Died: August 14, 1874, Tallahassee, Florida. Jonathan Clarkson Gibbs II was a Presbyterian minister who served as Secretary of State and Superintendent of Public Instruction of Florida. He was the first black Secretary of State.
- Daniel “Chappie” James Jr. – Born: February 11, 1920, Pensacola, Florida. Died: February 25, 1978, Colorado Springs, Colorado. Air Force fighter pilot and first African American to reach the rank of Four-Star General in the U.S. military. Flew combat missions in Korea and Vietnam and instructed African American pilots during WW2.
- Alwyn Cashe – Born: July 13, 1970, Sanford, Florida. Died: November 8, 2005, San Antonio, Texas. U.S. Army non-commissioned officer and posthumous recipient of the Medal of Honor for his service in Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Saved the lives of six of his fellow soldiers after the Bradley fighting vehicle they were riding in struck an improvised explosive device despite suffering second and third-degree burns over 72% of his body.
- James Weldon Johnson – Born: June 17, 1871, Jacksonville, Florida. Died: June 26, 1938, Wiscasset, Maine. Writer, civil rights activist, and a leader of the NAACP. He wrote “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” which is known as the black national anthem.
- John G. Riley – Born into slavery in 1857 and died a millionaire in 1954. 49-year educator career at a school in Wakulla County and as principal of the Lincoln Academy. One of the few African Americans to own property at the turn of the century.
- The Florida Highwaymen – A group of 26 African American landscape artists who painted from the 1950s to the 1980s. They became some of Florida’s most well-known painters and focused on images of the state’s natural treasures. Today, their work is displayed in prominent buildings throughout Florida, including the State Capitol and Governor’s Mansion.