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Philip L. Carret Thomas Jefferson Essay Competition

This is a guide to the Philip L. Carret Thomas Jefferson Essay Competition. The essay competition was endowed in 1997 and was designed to have students reflect on the principles and ideals in Thomas Jefferson's life and career.

2019 Carret Essay Prompt

Thomas Jefferson grappled with profound contradictions in regards to race and freedom. The man who drafted the Declaration of Independence was also the man who enslaved hundreds of people at Monticello. Though he publicly worried that slavery was wrong—indeed, an existential threat to the nation itself—he also publicly asserted the inferiority of people of African descent.

Just over an hour south of Jefferson’s beloved Monticello, the citizens of Prince Edward County dealt with similar contradictions nearly two hundred years later. Elon’s 2018-19 common reading, Kristin Green’s "Something Must Be Done About Prince Edward County," chronicles attempts to deny public education to African American students, thereby defying the mandate outlined by the Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education.

Keeping Jefferson’s famous words that “all men are created equal” in mind, assess how much progress the United States has made in its public education system since those early days of desegregation.

2019 Essay Winners

Name Award Title
Malia Takei First Place "Separate and Unequal: Housing Segregation and the Correlation with Unequal Education and Opportunities within the United States Public Education System"
Naomi Perry Second Place "Through Every Legal Means: How Education Discourse Thwarts Progress"
Ethan Porter Third Place "Public Schools and Socioeconomic Status"