Freshmen Team Breathes Life into African American History Bowl


Lucy Pearsall-Finch

It is the final round for the African American History Bowl. There are only two teams seated in the middle of the cafeteria with all eyes on them. There are six people seated around the table: two teams of two, the moderator, and the board member asking the questions. The first question: “State the title and author of-” Sci- Tech buzzed in, “The Negro in the Making of America written by Benjamin Quarels.” “Correct!” The final round started off like that: Sci- Tech with five points, CAPA with zero. Credit has to be given where credit is due: those two teams knew their history!

The African American History Bowl is an annual competition hosted by Dr. Walters in Pittsburgh. All the Pittsburgh Public Schools gather at Greenway to compete for the chance to compete in Nationals held somewhere across the country. This year, it is being held in Houston, Texas. The competition consists of four rounds 25 minutes long with 20 questions each. Each school has a team of two that travel room to room competing Jeopardy style. There are four buzzers, one for each person, and once a team buzzes in, they have ten seconds to answer and the question cannot be repeated- that part sucks especially if you buzz in early. During one of the rounds, I was too easily able to steal the other team’s answer. The question was referring to the Declaration of Independence but because he didn’t give the date, I was able to take his answer. My exact words: “The Declaration of Independence 1776.”

Etana Laing was my partner in this competition. We were the only team of freshman at the competition. Before it began, we were both freaking out not knowing if we knew enough information, how it was going to work, or how much competition we had with other teams. Throughout the competition, we figured out a system that worked well for us. We trusted that either the other knew the answer, or if one thought they knew the answer, the other may be able to help back it up. Now, in some instances, that was far from the case, but it was worth a shot. After the coach read the question, we would look at each other discuss or ask if the other knew what it was. There were times when we would tell each other the answer and then not buzz in thinking it was wrong when really-it was right. Sometimes it was a case of, we had literally just talked about but could not remember the answer. Other times, it was, “I don’t think I ever heard of that word, person, etc.” Then there were other instances where we knew it, buzzed in and confidently gave an answer, or rambled off everything we knew about the topic having some portion of it be the answer. Every round was full of laughter and personality. Of course we took the competition seriously, but it was also about having a good time with something academic. Honestly, I think we livened up every room. We were the youngins competing against returning competitors.

After Round 3 when we broke for lunch, Etana and I were of the mindset that we could actually win. We weren’t too far behind Sci- Tech and CAPA, and if we were able to get enough points Round 4, we were thinking we could make it to the final round. After the fourth round against U-Prep, we had 51 points. Mr. Vitti, our coach, had written down our scores along with Sci-Tech and CAPA. CAPA had been consistent with points the whole times, so if either school got what they had been getting, upper thirties to fifties, then we were out. When we finished that round we thought we had it, hoping that maybe the others schools didn’t know much about that round’s theme. But when we went back to the cafeteria, our average scores were lower than CAPA’s by only three! We had come so close and had so much fun in the process. While the final round was in action, Etana and I were watching with both the middle and high school groups. To ourselves, we were answering every question… correctly! We were a bit upset, but it set our views to be ready for next year.

Just reading the book was amazing. The Negro in the Making of America written by Benjamin Quarels, which I recommend to everybody, was full of information that changes your views on history and some things you may have believed are slightly different. The competition, based off of that book, was an amazing experience. And although Obama went to Nationals the past couple years, our school brought in the new blood that will come back even more prepared next year to win.