Congratulations to our 2020 Flag House Scholar, Reuben Williams! Due to the cancellation of the Flag Day Celebration during the COVID-19 pandemic, Reuben fulfilled his obligation to read his essay in the recording below. Please join us in congratulating Reuben!
A bit about our winner:
Reuben Williams, is a home-educated high school senior matriculating to Southeastern University, in central Florida, as an honors student. Reuben intends to major in language, culture, and trade, fostering his deep-seated passion for other cultures.
Outside of his studies and job as a manager at Chick-fil-a, Reuben dedicates time to choir, teaching free English second language classes, and volunteers at various local charities and organizations including Christian Shelter and the Village of Hope. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Reuben helped give back to his community by volunteering at a food bank, sorting non-perishable items for distribution.
Throughout high school, Reuben maintained a record of academic excellence and holds one silver and three gold medals from the National Latin Exam, which he has taken annually since 7th grade. He also studies both Team Policy and Lincoln-Douglas style of debate. Reuben says, “most importantly, I have learned to appreciate learning as an opportunity to better myself, and take every chance to enrich my understanding of the world I live in.”
Museums and historic houses have traditionally told the stories of the well-known history-makers such as George Washington’s Mt. Vernon or famous artists exhibited in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. However, museums and historic houses are increasingly developing research and exhibits that champion underrepresented groups. The historically significant actions of the working class, minorities, immigrants, and enslaved persons previously overlooked by mainstream narratives in American history are finally being shared. This is true of Mary Pickersgill and her household of craftswomen. At the Flag House, we work to preserve Mary’s legacy as a woman ahead of her time, business owner and advocate for the women of Baltimore, and as the maker of the Star-Spangled Banner. Although Mary and her team created the flag that inspired the national anthem, her story is frequently overshadowed by that of Francis Scott Key and the Battle of Baltimore.
The eighth Flag House Scholar Award will celebrate the historical contributions of unsung heroes from the past and present. Do you know of an unsung history-maker in your community? Is there an organization in your community working to keep the legacy of a historically significant, but often overlooked, individual alive and relevant? Identify a person living or from the past whose professional work, activism, or personal story has made a significant impact on you or your community. Describe why their story is unique and explain how they have changed the course of history.
Reuben’s Essay :
The day of war is the day of the hero when men and women alike rise up to defend the things they hold dear. One such hero is Charles Ball, an African American man from Maryland. Charles Ball was born a slave in Calvert County, Maryland, in 1781. For three generations his entire family was held in slavery. Eventually, Charles served in the War of 1812, the war that finalized American Independence, but history has neglected him. In light of his service, he deserves to be remembered for defending his homeland. Separated from his mother at a young age, Charles knew hardship well, yet he persevered and harbored no bitterness towards America and its inhabitants. In 1800 his master hired him out to the Navy for two years. In his autobiography, Charles writes enthusiastically about the comradery he experienced in the U.S. Navy. However, this hiatus from slavery was not destined to last, and he was again sold into slavery, this time in the deep south. After years of anguish and separation from his wife and children, Charles finally escaped and returned to Maryland in time for the War of 1812. In 1813, he enlisted again in the U.S. Navy. The significance of his choice cannot be overstated. The British Navy was offering guaranteed freedom to any slave who joined England’s cause. Charles, even knowing he could be forced back into slavery in America, still chose to fight for his country, in order to defend freedom he could not fully enjoy. Furthermore, Charles spent spare time trying to persuade his fellow slaves not to side with the British, but rather to defend America. After the war, Charles made his final escape from slavery to Pennsylvania, where he lived the rest of his days. Men and women like Charles Ball give everything for their nation, and they deserve to be remembered. I, with all Americans, owe Charles Ball and other heroes of liberty, thanks for the freedoms we enjoy. The true hero, like Charles, is the one who gives, even when he can expect nothing in return.