Five rusty American-style post boxes

2020/21 Writing Competition "Letters to a President"

In spring 2021, the University of Manchester’s programme in American Studies asked UK school students to write “Letters to a President”, to the incoming US presidential administration. Launched after the inauguration of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, the competition closed on the eve of the administration's first ‘one hundred days’ (April 30, 2021).

Students wrote letters of 500 words, addressed to President Joe Biden and/ or Vice President Kamala Harris and considered:

  • What issues should the new president and vice president prioritize during their first few months in office?
  • What are your hopes for the shape of our future world?

The competition was judged by Professor Gary Younge (Sociology), Professor Angie Wilson (Politics), and Dr Andrew Fearnley (American Studies). 

2020/21 Winners

By the deadline, our competition had inspired hundreds from across the UK to write letters to President Biden and Vice President Harris, and the quality of many entries made the act of judging a pleasingly challenging one. Huge congratulations to all students! 

Year 13 Category

Year 12 Category

Year 11 Category 

  • Winner: Eve Beckford, Withington Girls' School Eve's letter
  • Runner-up: Ben M, Bury Church of England High School Ben's letter
  • Special Commendation: Owen Knott, Bury Church of England High School Owen's letter
  • Special Commendation: Maryam Jawad, Withington Girls' School Maryam's letter

Year 10 Category

  • Winner: Maddie Stoll, St Paul's Girls' School Maddie's letter
  • Runner-up: Thomas Gibbs, St Damian's RC Science College Thomas's letter
  • Special Commendation: Emmanuel Egbuziem, St Damian's RC Science College Emmanuel's letter
  • Special Commendation: Naomi Park, St Damian's RC Science College Naomi's letter
  • Special Commendation: Jamie Raeburn, Werneth High School Jamie's letter

Year 9 Category

  • Winner: Haleema Ashraf, Withington Girls' School Haleema's letter
  • Joint Runner-Up: Lily Brown, St Damian's RC Science College Lily's letter
  • Joint Runner-Up: Eloise May, St Damian's RC Science College Eloise's letter
  • Joint Runner-Up: Hanae Bakali Merchani, Whalley Range 11-18 High School Hanae's letter
  • Special Commendation: Dalola Kajopaye, Withington Girls' School Dalola's letter
  • Special Commendation: Saint Adams, Bury Church of England High School Saint's letter
  • Special Commendation: Nadia Atlasbaf, Manchester High School for Girls Nadia's letter
  • Special Commendation: Year 9 student, St Damian's RC Science College 

2020/21 Video Lectures

We accompanied the 20/21 competition with resources. In these short videos, lecturers from the University of Manchester speak about famous letters that have made history.   

Dr Andrew Fearnley: "Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Letter from a Birmingham Jail, April 1963"

The letter is available online here via the University of Pennsylvania's African Studies Centre.

Dr Douglas Field - James Baldwin's Letters

Links to Baldwin's letters:

Dr. Gordon Fraser - Letter petitioning for slavery reparations from Belinda Sutton (1783)

Dr. Fraser's talk explores the petition of "Belinda" to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts (1783), a letter in which she asks to be awarded a pension in acknowledgement of the wages she never earned during her enslavement.

Dr David Brown - Manchester Cottonworkers to Lincoln (1862)

A version of the working-men's 'letter' to Lincoln and a description of the Manchester meeting can be found on the NY Times Archive website