LENOX -- Though the 1950s and 1960s are looked at as landmark years for civil rights and desegregation, earlier touchstones existed.
Delaney "Laney" Moran puts a lens to the subject through her writing on the history of Harlem's Savoy Ballroom, drawing an integrated mix of black and white musicians and dancers since its inception in 1926.
"In a way, it was a triumph for race relations, but as it caught attention in the media, it also became a threat," Moran said.
Her work, "The Savoy Ballroom," is one of 11 papers published in the spring 2014 issue of The Concord Review -- the 100th edition of the national quarterly publication for secondary school students of history.
For Moran, now a senior at Lenox Memorial Middle and High School, the paper began as a 12-page assignment as a junior in Peter Starenko's honors U.S. history class. It morphed into a summertime labor of love that more than doubled in size and depth of research before earning its distinction in the academic journal.
"It was tough because some friends were going to the beach while I was working on a research paper," said Moran, the only one in her class to submit a paper to The Concord Review.
"But it was a really good experience to have going into college, to be able to research and learn organization and to write," she said.
Though the assignment is rooted in original student exploration of a topic in U.S. history, Starenko, who chairs the Humanities Department at Lenox Memorial and previously taught at Williams College, said the project also aims to prepare students for the rigors of higher education.
"I try to teach them time management skills, to break the writing process down for them," said Starenko. "For some students, writing is so anxiety-filled it can be debilitating. But if they frontload with research and good notes, it can be easier."
One of the key components to success, according to both Moran and her teacher, is learning to do research through books, primary sources, journal and news archives. Starenko partners with school library and media specialist Alexis Brown Kennedy to help students access such resources.
Starenko also has students get a Boston Public Library card to allow them access to JSTOR, an online database of academic journals, books and primary sources.
Moran said she never used an Internet search to find online sources.
"I found actual books more helpful than a Google search," she said, noting that Life magazine was an integral source for exploiting the tone of the times: "Life was produced for a mainly white audience that extended beyond New York geographically," Moran wrote. "It projected the image of the Savoy to the rest of America. And the image it projected reflected the common racial stereotypes of the period. In an issue published in 1936, Life magazine called the Lindy Hop ‘a jungle dance in its wilder manifestations.'"
Starenko said that each year, students tackle a broad range of research -- the history of the yo-yo, the history of the SAT exam and the depiction of the roles of women in World War II posters among the most recent papers. The teacher, who said his department tends to steer away from using only textbooks for instruction, said he regularly cites students' research papers in his classes.
"They're doing real history work and a high academic and intellectual level," he said. "I think these papers give students the idea that they can master something. It's an experience that sticks with you, it's an accomplishment."