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10 middle schools compete in African American History Challenge Bowl

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What did Tahaka call himself?
Who was the leader of the Confederate Army?
Slaves were promised freedom if they fought for England in what proclamation?

Students from around Madison will try to answer these questions and more at the 100 Black Men of Madison's 20th annual African American History Challenge Bowl that will be held Saturday in the McDaniel Auditorium of the Madison Metropolitan School District's Doyle Administration Building.

The African American History Challenge Bowl is a contest for middle school students in a quiz show format where students are quizzed on questions from a prominent African American history book. The students represent their schools and compete for a chance to represent the Madison chapter at the national conference in Florida in June. Members from The 100 Black Men of Madison act as liaisons to each of the competing schools to ensure that the students understand the format and to be a source of support.

Longtime 100 Black Men of Madison member Enis Ragland has been involved with the Challenge Bowl since its inception 20 years ago. "I've been coordinating the History Challenge Bowl for 18 of those years," Ragland told Madison365. "The event has evolved a little bit over the years. The rules of the organization are set by the 100 Black Men of America and so that hasn't changed a lot. The book has changed a couple of times but other than that the format for how it operates has been the same."

The 100 Black Men of Madison, Inc. was established in 1994 as a nonprofit civic organization with the mission to make a positive difference in the lives of area youth through mentoring, education, health and wellness and economic development programs. The 100 Black Men of Madison are affiliated with the 100 Black Men of America, Inc. The overall concept of "100" began in New York in 1963, when a group of concerned African American men began meeting to explore ways of improving conditions in their community. The group eventually adopted the name "100 Black Men Inc." as a sign of solidarity.

Students study for months in preparation for the African American Challenge Bowl, which is really important because there are so many things about African American history that aren't covered in the regular curriculum at schools.

"That's one of the exciting and thrilling things about this competition is the knowledge that these kids soak in and bring to the competition," Ragland said. "This is knowledge that they also use in school in their social studies or history classes. Many times, these kids will add to what the teachers are proposing or their lesson plans the knowledge they've learned getting ready for the Challenge Bowls.

"And, I've heard at times, they've even corrected the teachers on their historical facts," adds Ragland, with a smile. "That's always a good thing."

Ragland said that he is loves to see young people excited about competing and learning.

"Even though the challenge is open to all students, it's good to have our students of color competing at an academic level," Ragland said. "We always learn to compete through sports, but rarely – unless it's a spelling bee or something – do we compete academically. I think this is a great opportunity for all young people, but particularly young people of color."

And how much African American history has Ragland soaked in over his 20 years being involved with the History Bowl Challenge?

"I know the book by heart," Ragland said. "Over the years I've written questions for the challenge bowl, and, of course, I've been the emcee for a number of years. I was a history major, anyways, and I love history, so the History Challenge Bowl is something very near and dear to me."

There will be 10 middle schools competing this year to win the coveted Michael McKinney trophy named after the former NBC-15 anchorperson, community activist, and longtime member of the 100 Black Men of Madison.

"Mike was one our members who was a strong supporter of the History Bowl," Ragland said. "As a matter of fact, he was the emcee of the History Bowl for a number of years and we could think of no better way to honor him and his passing than to name a trophy after him. He was a good man for a good event."

On top of the trophy, the MMSD middle school that wins the city-wide championship will earn an all-expenses-paid trip to the 100 Black Men National Competition in Hollywood, Florida., in mid-June.

Madison teams have had some success. Madison Middle School teams have won the national championship in 1996, 2008 and 2012.

"Our middle school teams have won the national competition three times in our 20-year history," Ragland said. "They've made us very proud and that's something that we hope to continue."

The public is invited and encouraged to attend the event and to watch and cheer the students during this exciting competition.

"If you like Jeopardy and you like the old College Bowl and you like to see young people compete with their brains against each other, than you should come on out this Saturday," Ragland said. "We also have a competition between the schools so whichever school brings the most supporters they can win gift certificates for $300, $200, and $100 that they can use for pizza parties or to support other activities at school. So that's exciting, too. The crowd really gets into it at the event, so that's fun, too."

By the way, the answers to the opening questions are:
Emperor of the world
Robert E. Lee,
The Dunmore Proclamation.

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