Carnegie Mellon University

Prizewinning Work

"These young gifted writers, who are arrestingly creative, searingly intelligent, and ultimately hopeful, will be our saviors." - Victoria Chang, Editor of Asian American Poetry: The Next Generation and author of Barbie Chang


Since 1999, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Writing Awards has served as an outlet for western Pennsylvania high school and college students to share their personal experiences with discrimination and differences of all kinds through poetry and prose.

“These brave, talented student writers are careful observers of the world around them, and they offer important stories for all of us to hear and learn from,” said Jim Daniels, the Thomas Stockham Baker University professor of English who founded and directed the awards. “Their voices deserve to be heard again and again.”

Each year, a book of the students’ award-winning work is published and distributed at Carnegie Mellon University’s annual awards celebration on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. The online archive of these books—accessible below—keeps the discussion alive by making the work available to an even larger audience far beyond the event.

The anthology, Challenges to the Dream: The Best of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Writing Awards (Carnegie Mellon University Press, 2017), features a selection of prizewinning works from the first eighteen years of the competition. Writing about the anthology, Alberto Ríos, Arizona Poet Laureate, said, "I am so glad to have found my way to and have savored the heartfelt writing in this book."

We encourage you to explore the students’ courageous and inspiring work.