Justin Reiss – Flag House Scholar 2016

Congratulations to our winner, Justin Reiss!

A bit about our winner:

Justin has been active inside and outside of the classroom throughout his high school career. Academically, he has pushed and challenged himself, achieving an accumulative GPA of 3.9 and a 4.6 weighted GPA. Justin is involved in numerous extracurricular activities, spanning multiple disciplines. His most memorable moments in high school come from his involvement in the music program, where he has served as Drum Major of the marching band, French horn player in the Wind Ensemble, and member of the Jazz Band. Other notable extracurricular activities and achievements include member of the National Honor Society, player on the Varsity Baseball team, and achieving the Rank of Eagle Scout. Last month, Justin graduated from Centennial High School, and will be attending Pennsylvania State University, majoring in biomedical engineering.

2016 Question:

In Baltimore on January 6, 1810, ten-year-old free African american girl Grace Wisher, entered a six year indenture with Mary Pickersgill to learn housework and plain sewing.

Students were asked to write an essay comparing and contrasting the opportunities and challenges Grace may have faced to those of Mary’s daughter Caroline, answering the question, was Grace truly free?


Justin’s Essay:

Grace Wish was not entirely free, as she was contractually obliged to stay with Mary Pickersgill for six years. However, in the early 1800’s, the majority of ten-year-old African American girls were enslaved, and receiving the repercussions of blunt racism that existed in this nation. As a “free girl of color,” wisher gave herself the best opportunity to be successful at the time by learning the art of housework and sewing through an indenture. Compared to society today, this was not ideal, bu in her time period, the United States was controlled by a patriarchy that extremely limited the opportunities for women. Being that Wisher was both African American and female, she had little to no opportunities to be successful. By taking on an indenture, Wisher put herself in the best possible scenario to be successful. By learning useful skills, she would be able to provide for her family in the best way she could. After completing her indenture, Wisher would still be extremely limited in what she could accomplish, however, compared to the typical African American women, Wisher had an immense amount of freedom and opportunity ahead of her. Through her indenture and learning how to sew flags, Grace Wisher achieved what many people only dreamed of in the early 1800’s. Wisher could experience a degree of freedom, and while no one can be certain, she most likely felt extremely blessed to be in a situation where she was able to experience a sense of freedom.