Dr. E.B. Henderson “Dear Editor” Contest

Dr. 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 public and private, 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. How a social injustice has harmed the community or how the social injustice, when corrected can help the 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 your letter responds to the news article

When to Submit:

Diener & Associates must receive the application package by 5 PM on April 30th.  Award Recipients are expected to attend the Tinner Hill Blues Festival to receive their monetary awards.

Cash Prizes

10 prizes awarded

Senior High School (Grades 9-12)    

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

Middle School (Grades 6-8)   

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

Cay Wiant Teacher Award for Superior Encouragement of Students Writers

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Historical Reference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 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 town’s action, Dr. Henderson, together with Mr. Joseph Tinner and other residents of African American community in Falls Church, 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.