A large crowd – including administrators, students, teachers, parents and community leaders – came out to see the 24th annual African American History Challenge Bowl on April 7 at the MMSD’s Doyle Administration Building. A talented team of Spring Harbor Middle Schoolers defeated Sennett Middle School in the championship match-up to punch their ticket to the National African American History Challenge Bowl competition in Hollywood, Florida, this June.

“We had all 12 middle schools participating this year. The event went really well. It was a fun event,” Enis Ragland, founding president of 100 Black Men of Madison and moderator of the event, tells Madison365.

The African American History Challenge Bowl is an annual contest for middle school students in a quiz show format where students are quizzed on questions from a prominent African American history book. The students represent their schools and compete for a chance to represent the Madison chapter at the national conference in Florida in June. Members from The 100 Black Men of Madison act as liaisons to each of the competing schools to ensure that the students understand the format and to be a source of support.

The team from Spring Harbor Middle School – made up of Paul Eickhoff, Simon Kellum and Genesis Woodards – was victorious in a round robin tournament that saw them beat Blackhawk Middle School in the semi-finals before their resounding victory over Sennett in the championship. As a result, Sring Harbor students will travel to Hollywood, Florida, for the national championship.

“Our chances are always good as we advance to the next level. Our teams are always well-prepared. We will always be competitive,” Ragland says. “Hopefully, we’ll bring the trophy home again this year and continue the tradition.”

A team from Madison – Wright Middle School – won last year’s national championship. If Spring Harbor wins this year, Madison schools will have wone 6 national championships in 25 years. That’s a little more than lucky. That’s really good.

“Yeah. And don’t forget that we won the first African American History Bowl Challenge ever,” Ragland says.

Spring Harbor beat out 11 Madison middle schools for the championship.

Win or lose, the National African American Challenge Bowl is always an amazing opportunity for Madison-area middle schoolers to learn about African-American history. But do the 100 Black Men of Madison learn anything?

“I always learn something,” Ragland laughs. “I did not know that the state that had the most slaves per capita was Rhode Island. As long as I’ve been doing this, I still learned something new.”

Ragland has been involved with the African American History Bowl Challenge for a quarter-century and he always looks forward to the event.

“I just told [100 Black Men of Madison President] Floyd [Rose] that I want to step up our game even more for the African American History Challenge Bowl and make it even better in the coming years,” Ragland says. “I’ve got some ideas.

“But I really love the energy from the kids and the competitive nature of the event. I like to see the excitement they have when they know the answer and they get the points and even the frustration when they know it but weren’t able to buzz in on time,” Ragland adds. “As I’ve noted a number of times, our kids grow up learning to be competitive athletically but not always academically. This is a wonderful opportunity for them to be competitive academically and prove to themselves that they can do great things.”