Carnegie Mellon University

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Writing Awards

Honest. Daring. Eloquent young voices.

Since 1999, Carnegie Mellon University's Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Writing Awards has provided an outlet for young people to express their personal experiences with difference and discrimination of all kinds through poetry and prose. The mission of the awards is to create a safe and creative haven for sharing difficult stories in the belief that the process of writing itself can help break down barriers of difference in our lives. The awards are open to all high school and college students in western Pennsylvania and all Carnegie Mellon campuses.

Read the press release about the 2020 prizewinners and the upcoming Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Writing Awards celebration here

View our informational video and explore the links below for tips on writing and submitting your entries, access to twenty years of prizewinning work, and details on our activities. 

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Writing Awards Celebration

Monday, January 20, 2020
4:30 p.m. reception; 5 p.m. program begins
Rangos Hall, second floor, Cohon University Center, Carnegie Mellon University

The centerpiece of the university's observance of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, the 2020 Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Writing Awards celebration features readings by the top winners in high school and college poetry and prose, a special drama award presentation, and performances by Carnegie Mellon's School of Drama Musical Theater Ensemble. Honorable mentions and the top entries of each participating school are also recognized. Food will be served.

Please join us for this free public event.

Read the 2020 prizewinning works here.

Read the 2020 honorable mentions here



“It is consoling beyond words to witness these young writers wrestling with the realities of race, and bringing solid thought and well-wrought language to bear upon that process... This is the mortar that will mend of nation's spirit. These are the minds and hearts to whom I feel safe entrusting our collective future.”
- Tracy K. Smith, Poet Laureate of the United States, 2017-2019

Many of our prizewinners have made writing and social justice a part of their adult lives and careers. Here is a sample of their work.

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