The E.B. Henderson “Dear Editor” Contest presented by Tinner Hill Heritage Foundation and Cox Communications

“Dear Editor” is an opportunity for students to engage critically and write persuasively, responding to news media regarding the topic of social justice and civil rights.


Entry Information

Submit entries by filling out this form:

Write a “letter to the editor” of 250 words or less that responds to an article, a photograph, or another “letter to the editor” published in a local or national newspaper, magazine or internet news source. Each student may submit only one letter per year. Letters must be addressed to “Dear Editor” and signed by the student.

The news article selected by a student should relate either to a denial of civil rights OR an acceptance of multicultural differences and how this has improved life in a community.

Each “Dear Editor” letter should:

  • Express your thoughts on civil rights or multicultural relations,

  • Explain how the newspaper item relates to a denial of civil rights or acceptance of cultural differences,

  • Tell how your position affects the denial of civil rights or acceptance of cultural differences.

Letters will be judged on:

  • clarity

  • relevance to civil rights or acceptances of cultural differences

  • persuasiveness

  • “Dear Editor” letter format

  • how well the letter responds to the news article

Due: April 30 by 5:00 pm

Who Can Enter: Northern Virginia middle and high school students, including age-appropriate home schooled children.

Winner announcement: May 15

Award ceremony: May 31


  • 1st place winners (of each middle and high school): $200

  • 2nd place winners (of each middle and high school): $100

  • 3rd place winners (of each middle and high school): $50

  • The top ten finalist middle school finalists and the top ten high school finalists will receive a Chromebook, courtesy of Cox Communications

  • The "Cay Wiant Award" for teachers: $75

History & Background


For many years, Tinner Hill Heritage Foundation has been host to the annual legacy ‘E.B. Henderson Dear Editor Contest’ for participating local schools in Falls Church, Virginia including George Mason High School. This competition has engaged students in critical thinking regarding multicultural relations, civil rights and social justice issues from historical perspectives in consideration of current events and news stories. Every year, students submit their brief essays to the local review committee. Winners are provided public recognition and a nominal cash award in recognition for their excellence in authorship. Historically, this program was sponsored for many years by the Washington Post.

The contest explicitly honors the work of Dr. Edwin Bancroft Henderson (1883-1977), a Falls Church resident and prolific letter-writer. Dr. Henderson understood the power of the written word and its ability to influence public opinion and policy. He wrote over 3,000 letters to the editors that were published in newspapers in the Washington, D.C. area and across the nation. His focused, passionate letters frequently created a groundswell of direct action by readers as well as the government.

In 1915, the town of Falls Church attempted to enact an ordinance, which would have forced residential segregation. In response to the town’s action, Dr. Henderson, together with Mr. Joseph Tinner and other residents of African American community in Falls Church, founded an organization to rally against the ordinance.  The group, which called themselves The Colored Citizens Protective League (CCPL), succeeded in defeating the ordinance.  The group became a chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the very first rural chapter in the entire country.

Over the next 50 years, Dr. Henderson became a leading Northern Virginia civil rights leader, using the power of the pen to achieve his goal.