MLK Jr. Writing Awards-Department of English - Carnegie Mellon University

The Martin Luther King, Jr. Writing Awards

These awards are open to all high school and college students in the Pittsburgh area. We seek personal narratives dealing with individual experience of racial or cultural difference or personal reflections on Dr. King's legacy that rely on concrete detail. The top three winners receive cash prizes.

Jim Daniels, Thomas Stockham Baker University Professor of English, established the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Writing Awards in 1999. The program builds on Daniels’ commitment to writing about race. He edited "Letters to America: Contemporary American Poetry on Race." In 2001, the event expanded to include a separate category for Carnegie Mellon students, working on the premise that the voices of college students, and their varying experiences, could and should interact with the young voices from the Pittsburgh community.

Help us continue to have these important conversations on racial and cultural differences. Please consider donating to the Martin Luther King Jr. Writing Awards. Your donation will go a long way in helping us continue to reflect on Dr. King's legacy. Make a gift today.

Media Coverage and Photo Gallery

Watch this Pittsburgh Post-Gazette video to learn what identity means to this year's MLK Jr. Writing Awards winners! Our winners also made an appearance on Pittsburgh Today Live, where they read their essays! Watch the video here.

The MLK Jr. Writing Awards is also accompanied with a performance by musical theater students from Carnegie Mellon's School of Drama. Check out photos from the event:

Contest Guidelines

The contest guidelines specifically request personal narratives on race. We believe that if we learn each other's stories, the barriers begin to break down. We begin to see each other as individual human beings, struggling the way we all must, to live good lives and treat each other decently. We are all parts of different communities, and we reach out and cross over in strange, often surprising ways. The King Writing Awards provides a common ground for all these communities. As part of the University’s day-long schedule of panel discussions and performing arts presentations, the winners of this contest read in the University Center’s main lecture hall to an audience of hundreds.

In addition, each year, a book of award winners' work is published and distributed at the event. This archive of those books is meant to keep the discussion going by making this writing accessible to an even larger audience. Past winners and their work are listed in the award booklets below, starting with the current year. Please click on the program from the year you wish to see to download the booklet in PDF format.

Read submissions that received honorable mention in 2015.
Read submissions that received honorable mention in 2014.

Read submissions that received honorable mention in 2013.

MLK 2015


MLK 2014



MLK 2012 Booklet


MLK 2011 Booklet


MLK 2010 booklet














We feature a different award-winning narrative each month! Read CAPA alumna Alexis Payne's award-winning poem here!

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Help us continue to have these important conversations on racial and cultural differences. Donate now to the Martin Luther King Jr. Writing Awards!


Learn about our other exciting Writing Awards!

We host even more writing awards!