2024 BAAS School Essay Award for Students of Colour
Deadline: 29 February 2024
In order to tackle the significant obstacles in higher education that are caused by systemic racism, and to make clear not only the commitment of BAAS to making the study of America in the UK more inclusive, but also to demonstrate the fundamentally important place scholars of colour have, BAAS is eager to support scholars of colour through this essay prize which is open exclusively to Black, Indigenous, Asian, Latinx, Arab, and any other students of colour/Global Majority students.
We are looking for essays that explore any aspect of the American experience, from the perspective of history, literature, film, politics or any other related or inter-related discipline. If you feel more comfortable to do so, you are welcome to respond to a specific question of your own choosing. No preference will be given, whether you choose to write on a topic of your own choice, or if you respond to a specific question.
Submissions that engage with some aspect of social justice, such as (but not limited to) voting rights, environmental justice, Indigenous rights, racial justice, healthcare, gender justice, immigration, or equality, are of particular interest to the awarding panel.
Essays may be adapted from coursework or ongoing research projects that students are engaged in, but they must not exceed the length of 1,500 words. You are encouraged to include references and a bibliography, but this is not essential and will have no bearing on the award. However, any materials used should be listed and the award panel will not tolerate any form of plagiarism. The 1,500 word count only refers to the body of the essay, and not any details of sources used.
In addition, we request that each entry for the School Essay prize should be accompanied by a signed letter from the student’s teacher, certifying the applicant’s status. This must include a contact email address for that teacher.
The award for the winning author will be £150, with two runner-up prizes of £50 each.
Students of Colour are encouraged to submit work for this award and the School Essay Prize, but these submissions cannot be duplicated: different essays have to be submitted to each award category.
All essays should be anonymous. No names or institutional affiliation must appear on the essay itself, only on the covering letter attached with the essay (both must be submitted by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org by 29 February 2024; please indicate the name of the Award for which you are applying in the subject line).
BAAS is committed to promoting best practice in matters of equality and diversity, and thus particularly encourages students from minoritised backgrounds to apply for our awards.
In addition to the financial prize, award winners will also be given their choice of two BAAS paperbacks.
Award winners are invited to attend a virtual awards ceremony in the summer, and are encouraged to invite friends and family along to help celebrate. Winners also have the opportunity to write a short piece for US Studies Online and/or participate in the USSO podcast if they wish to disseminate their work further. This will also be a valuable opportunity to include on the winner’s CV.
For enquiries about the awards, contact email@example.com.
Some tips to bear in mind when writing your essay:
- Historical context is important when thinking about American literature and culture. But…only include pertinent historical detail in your essays! You do not need to include lots of specific dates or events or author biographies. You do not need to give a comprehensive history of a specific period or process. Only include information that is absolutely necessary.
- Your essay should have a coherent and compelling argument. An essay is a piece of persuasive writing…you need to convince your reader that your major claims have merit.
- You need to come up with a thesis (hypothesis): this is a succinct claim that you will then substantiate using credible evidence (close readings of primary texts, interaction with secondary source material). A thesis is a definable, arguable claim (something that can be sufficiently backed up by the evidence). It is a provocation, a judgment, a way to engage critically with your primary text. It is NOT a yes or no answer, a topic, an opinion, a question, or a list. Your thesis should be focused and specific. You only have 1500 words so the argument should not be too ambitious or vague.
- Make sure that when you make claims, that you also back these up with evidence (for example a quote from a play, historical figure, or from a secondary source), and then analyse this further (the evidence itself, or how this backs up your claim).
- Do not think about an essay as simply an opportunity to put down everything you know about a subject: an effective essay should be an attempt to convince your reader of your position. As such, think about how the reader will experience your writing: will they understand the process of your thinking? Remember that you will not be there to explain anything they do not understand, so clarity and coherence are key.
- An essay is a conversation between scholars – of which you are one! Show your reader how your argument resonates with, converges, or diverges from the arguments of others, but remember your voice and perspective are key – if we simply wanted to know the thoughts of others we would be reading their work instead of your essay!
Your essay will be assessed according to the following criteria:
- Is there a clear and compelling argument?
- Are claims accompanied by evidence and analysis?
- Does the essay include some close reading of a primary text (or texts)?
- Does the essay engage with secondary sources, thereby understanding what other scholars have argued?