E.B. Henderson Dear Editor Contest

E.B. Henderson Dear Editor Contest

Contest Information

What It Is:  

“Dear Editor” is an opportunity to engage students to think critically and write persuasively, responding to news media regarding the topic of social justice and civil rights.

Who Can Enter:

The “Dear Editor” contest is open to Northern Virginia middle and high school students, including age-appropriate home schooled children.

How to Enter:

Write a “letter to the editor” of 250 words or less that responds to an article, a photograph, or another “letter to the editor” published in a local or national newspaper, magazine or internet news source.  Each student may submit only one letter per year.  Letters must be addressed to “Dear Editor” and signed by the student.


The news article selected by a student should relate either:

  • To a denial of civil rights 


  • To an acceptance of multicultural differences and how this has improved life in a community.

Your “Dear Editor” letter should:

  • Express your thoughts on civil rights or multicultural relations, 
  • Explain how the newspaper item relates to a denial of civil rights or acceptance of cultural differences,
  • Tell how your position affects the denial of civil rights or acceptance of cultural differences.

Letters will be judged on:

  • clarity,
  • relevance to civil rights or acceptances of cultural differences,
  • persuasiveness,
  • “Dear Editor” letter format
  • How well the letter responds to the news article

When to Submit:

Diener & Associates must receive the application package by 5 PM on May 1st.  Award Recipients are expected to attend the Tinner Hill Blues Festival on Saturday June 10th, to receive their monetary awards.

Cash Prizes

10 prizes awarded

Sr. High 9-12    

  • 1st prize - $100       
  • 2nd prize - $50       
  • 3rd prize - $25  

Middle Sch 6-8  

  • 1st prize- $100        
  • 2nd prize - $50
  • 3rd prize - $25

Additionally, the educator who submits the greatest number of entries to the contest is eligible for a $75 cash prize.

To learn more about the contest and enter, download the Dear Editor Contest information and application form.

All entrants give THHF the right to publish and/or display their letter.

Historical Reference:

The “Dear Editor” contest honors the work of Dr. Edwin Bancroft Henderson (1883-1977), a Falls Church resident and prolific letter-writer. Dr. Henderson knew full well the power of the written word and it’s ability to influence public opinion and policy. He wrote and over 3,000 letters to the editors that were published in newspapers in the Washington, D.C. area and across the nation. His focused, passionate letters frequently created a groundswell of direct action by readers, as well as, the government. 

In 1915, the town of Falls Church attempted to enact an ordinance which would have forced residential segregation. In response to the towns action, Dr. Henderson, who lived in Falls Church, together with Mr. Joseph Tinner and other residents of Tinner Hill, founded an organization to rally against the ordinance.  The group, which called themselves The Colored Citizens Protective League (CCPL), succeeded in defeating the ordinance.  The group became a chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the very first rural chapter in the entire country..

Over the next 50 years, Dr. Henderson became a leading Northern Virginia civil rights leader, using the power of the pen to achieve his goal. The following is an excerpt from one of his letters:

Many German people have developed considerable cynicism about American democracy. Some of the U.S. officers are telling Germans not to associate with Negro troops on the premise that, in the United States, the Negroes have the same social status of the Jews in Germany. This confuses the Nazis. They are beginning to believe that the ideology of race superiority upon which the war was based was not morally wrong.

It is sheer farce to try to re-educate Nazis for the Society of civilized men and women and at the same time permit the racial philosophy of Hitler’s to be propagandized by some of our soldiers. -- The Washington News, Dec., 1945