There are two ways to learn about history: 1. do research, or 2. ask DJ Branham.
The 14-year-old soon-to-be Pittston Area High School freshman put his knowledge of history to the test when he competed at the National History Bee in Louisville, Kentucky over Memorial Day weekend, placing 237th out of 700 competitors in grades 5 through 10.
DJ said he likes to consider himself a huge history buff.
“I’ve liked it my whole life,” he said. “I really like American history.”
Studying for the National History Bee included a lot of time and effort, but thanks to the internet, DJ was able to keep ahead of the curve on what he needed to know.
“I watched a lot history stuff on YouTube,” he said.
DJ’s mother Kim Branham said the rest of the family helped him prepare in any way they could.
“Any kind of history book he wanted we took from the library or purchased it,” she said. “Pretty much anytime in between January, when all of this began, to May, he just had his nose in a book on his computer just looking up any historical facts he could find.”
In order to get to Louisville, DJ first had to qualify by going through a small competition at the Martin L. Mattei Middle School earlier this year, in which he had to finish in the top two in the Pittston Area Middle School Bee by taking a test on the history bee web page.
From there, DJ qualified for the Regional History Bee in Philadelphia and competed at that event in back in April.
According to Kim, her son placed 14th out of 113 competitors, but only the top 10 were guarantees to go to the National History Bee.
“Top 10 finishers automatically advanced,” said Kim. “The next group of 10, (who placed) 11 through 20, got special invitations to go to the national level.”
The Branham family ended up spending their entire Memorial Day weekend traveling to and from Louisville.
“We traveled there on Thursday (May 21), and got there late Thursday,” said DJ. “We were there Friday and Saturday and we left on Sunday.”
DJ said his older sister Amanda Branham, who graduated from Penn State University with a degree in history and is a history teacher, quizzed him a little bit on the ride down.
The competition included a test that competitors had to take that Friday and then on Saturday was the competition itself, which included various kinds of questions.
“They asked questions about certain historical figures and events,” said DJ.
One question, Kim said, was about the 1989 San Francisco earthquake.
Now that DJ is on his way to the high school, he hopes to continue to compete with his knowledge of history by competing at the junior varsity level for competitions similar to the National History Bee. She said one day he would like to become a history teacher.
As for the experience he got out of the National History Bee, DJ said he learned his knowledge is not to be taken for granted.
“I learned that I’m smarter than other people and that I really know a lot of things about history,” he said.