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Posted on: February 12, 2020

Local Students Honor Civil Rights Activists through Voting Rights Art and Essay Contest

NORFOLK, VA – February is African American History Month, and what better way to celebrate than learning about important figures who have impacted history.  This year, the Norfolk Public Library, the City of Norfolk, and Norfolk Public Schools want every student from pre-K to 12th grade to reflect on the 2020 theme, “African Americans and the Vote,” by participating in the city-wide “Voting Rights” art and essay contest. 

The contest is also a way to honor local civil rights activist Evelyn Butts, who is best known for challenging the poll tax in the 1960s and taking her case before the United States Supreme Court. Butts eventually won her case to get the poll tax eliminated with the help of Joseph A. Jordan Jr., a civil rights attorney who later became the first African American member of the Norfolk City Council since Reconstruction. Jordan was also the first African American judge for the Norfolk General District Court.

Students are encouraged to read about Jordan, Butts and other trailblazers, and create an expression of what they learned through an original artwork or essay. 

Artwork requirements:

  • Illustrate a scene or excerpt from a book or other written material about Evelyn Butts or other people or organizations involved in advancing voting rights
  • Art contest open to: Pre-K through 12th Grade
  • Minimum paper Size = 8.5x11
  • Maximum paper Size = 22x28 (standard poster size)
  • Any type of paper or medium may be used
  • No 3-D artwork will be accepted

Essay Requirements:

  • Write an original essay that relates to Evelyn Butts or other people or organizations involved in advancing voting rights
  • Essay contest open to Grades 6-12
  • Essay must be typed and not exceed one page
  • Essay must be original and not previously published

Entries may be dropped off at all Norfolk Public Library branches by the deadline, Saturday, March 7, 2020, before 5 PM.  Entries may also be dropped off at the Pretlow Anchor Branch, Jordan-Newby Anchor Branch or Slover Library on Sunday, March 8, by 5 PM.

All entries must be accompanied by an entry form. To download the entry form and get a complete explanation of contest guidelines, visit the Library’s website at   

First- and second-place winners will be chosen for each grade category for artwork and essays. Winners will be notified on March 13, 2020.  Save the date for the Evelyn Butts Voting Rights Awards Ceremony to be held on Saturday, March 21, at 3 PM at the Jordan-Newby Anchor Branch Library.    

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