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Montana History Topics NHD 2023-2024

Page history last edited by mkohl@mt.gov 9 months, 1 week ago

National History Day 2024 Theme: Turning Points in History


This year’s theme focuses on turning points. According to National History Day, "A turning point in history is more than just an important event that happened a long time ago. It is more than a new idea or a particular action taken by an individual. A turning point is an idea, event, or action that directly, or sometimes indirectly, causes change."


Almost every topic in Montana history connects to this year's theme, from treaty negotiations to homesteading to the 1972 Constitutional Convention. Here are some other possible turning points that relate to Montana history: the bombing of the Butte Union Hall, William Clark's bribing his way into the U.S. Senate (motivation for the passage of the 17th Amendment--direct election of senators), and the Collier Report (exposing the failures of allotment and forced assimilation).    


There are many other exciting topics potential topics for National History Day projects based on Montana's state or local history. Here are a few that come to mind: Blackfeet Banker Elouise Cobell's fight for justice against the federal government, the 1972 Constitutional Conventionthe 1909 Missoula free speech fightthe Hellgate, Lame Bull, and Fort Laramie treaties, the 1910 Big Burn and fire policythe 1896 anti-Butte Chinese boycott, the Freeman standoff, homesteadingallotment and the sale of Indian land, the Salish fight to retain the Bitterroot, the creation of Glacier or Yellowstone National Parks, the Wilderness Act and its effects in Montana, creation of Rocky Boy's ReservationMontana Sedition Act 


A few of these suggestions are specific enough to make good topics as they are. Others are MUCH too broad for an NHD project, so you'll need to narrow your topic to make a good project. For all of them, you'll need to focus in on how these topics relate to the theme of Turning Points in History.


The Montana Historical Society's Research Center is currently closed for renovation, but here are few suggestions of other places to find resources:


 Chronicling America Project and/or the Montana Historical Society website MontanaNewspapers.orgNewspapers are a great primary source. For best results use the advance search function to limit your date range and search terms (we recommend "within 5 words" or "within 10 words" for names or other multiple word search terms.) You'll also need to think about your terms. If you search "World War I" during the 1914-1918 period, nothing will come up--because it wasn't called World War I at the time. Searching takes some skill and persistence, but there's gold in the historic newspapers. Bonus: We are offering a $500 prize for the project that makes best use of our digitized newspaper collections. 


Women's History Matters.  In 2014, on the 100th anniversary of women's suffrage in Montana (another turning point!), the Montana Historical Society created the Women's History Matters website.  We recommend that you browse through the more than 100 essays on that page and the bibliographies that accompany them. You will find plenty of topics relating to turning points, including the stories of Hazel Hunkins: The Billings Suffragist Who Picketed the White House (great for an individual performance) and the work of women legislators to align Montana's laws with the "individual dignity" clause of the 1972 Constitution by making discrimination based on sex (one effect of a turning point).


Montana and the Great War. For the centennial of World War I, the Montana Historical Society created the website Montana and the Great War to investigate the war’s transformative and complicated legacy in our home state. The period is full of stories of ways the war was a turning point--from the crack down of dissent and the arrest and conviction of 76 Montanans for sedition to the heavy borrowing to produce food for the war effort that ended up bankrupting many Montana farmers. The site includes links to both secondary and primary sources as well as Story Maps that provide a taste of the many Montana stories worth investigating.  


African Americans in Montana. Although African Americans never totaled more than one percent of the state’s population, they have been in the place that would become Montana since the earliest days of non-Indian presence and contributed greatly to Montana’s culture, economy, and religious life. Turning points include the passage of a public accommodations law (making it illegal to bar people from businesses based on race). You can learn more at Montana's African American Heritage Resources


Good luck! And remember, we are here to help!



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