Massie Prize for Historical Research & Writing winners named

Congratulations to Nia Chetkovich '22 and Jonathan Chung-Bruehl '23 for their work. They were each awarded one of the annual Robert K. Massie Prizes for Historical Research & Writing.
By Mackey Luffman, HS History Teacher & History/Social Studies Department Chair

Each year, the History/Social Studies Department gives an annual prize for the best historical research papers in World and U.S. history. The award is named in honor of Robert Massie, a Rhodes Scholar, a Pulitzer Prize and Carnegie Medal-winning (and best selling) author, and 1946 graduate of Peabody Demonstration School.

Massie, who passed away in December 2019, was a unique historian, able to communicate to a broad audience; in the words of one reviewer, he is a “master of historical narrative.” As such he is an excellent role model for USN students as they develop their own voices as young writers.

All students in modern world history and U.S. history courses write research papers, and their teachers nominate outstanding papers for consideration. Outside judges, including professors at Vanderbilt and Western Kentucky Universities, make the final selections. These evaluators give their time to read the nominated papers and apply the criteria for selection. Those criteria include historical accuracy, clarity of presentation, balanced perspectives, commitment to good scholarship, and original interpretation.

Our judges have always remarked on the consistent high quality of USN students’ work and the difficulty in selecting the best papers. In light of their professional experiences with undergraduate and graduate writers, that is quite a compliment.

This year’s prize in American History goes to a paper that explores the role of feminist bookstores in the second half of the 20th century, along with the varieties of literature sold and promulgated in them.

"[The paper] engages with primary sources in a robust way … and is an original and richly textured look at
second-wave feminist print and bookstore culture and its role in fostering community and empowering the voiceless. I was particularly impressed by the author’s readings of off our backs, Everywoman, and the Feminist Bookstore News. That material on its own … could be the basis of a publishable paper. In many ways, second wave feminism wrote itself into being with authors like [Betty] Friedan and [Kate] Millet changing the national conversation, and it makes sense that bookstores and magazines — literary culture — would be a primary medium for feminist activism," said one of the judges.
This year’s Massie Prize for American History goes to Nia Chetkovich '22. Her paper, "The Significance of Feminist Bookstores: Popularizing the Second Wave Feminist Movement" also placed second at the regional level and third at the state level in the Historical Paper category of the Tennessee History Day competition in April.

Our judge recommended Vanderbilt Professor Teresa Goddu’s book "Selling Antislavery: Abolition and Mass Media in Antebellum America" as another work exploring literary culture and social movements in U.S. History.

High School History Teachers Anna Stern and Matthew Haber '98 nominated 10 papers for the Modern World History category, and this competition was close. The prize winner chose an apt historical topic for the 2020-
2021 school year: the 1918 influenza pandemic and its impact on military and civilian populations alike. 

"This essay is a fascinating and timely foray into medical history. It engages difficult medical issues clearly and directly, making them very accessible for a non-expert audience. It also does a fantastic job of bridging the medical side of what was going on with the Spanish flu pandemic and the social and political histories that the author also discusses. It deals well with the issue of hubris among the scientists of the era. The consideration of how the conditions of trench warfare facilitated rapid spread of the flu is particularly well done, and the use of the case study of Etaples is fantastic… page seven includes a great transition to considering the significance of propaganda and censorship, itself a fascinating part of the story of the Spanish flu that does not get much
attention," a judge shared. 

This year’s Massie Prize for World History goes to “The Invisible Killer: the Role of 1918 Pandemic Influenza in the Final Year of World War I” by Jonathan Chung-Bruehl '23.

Please join us in congratulating these students on their achievement!
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