Carnegie Mellon University

The Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Writing Awards competition and celebration are paused for 2020-2021.

Resources for Educators 

Using writing to inspire discussions about difference and discrimination.


The Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Writing Awards can be a valuable tool for educators to develop empathy and encourage discussion about race, identity, and social justice through writing. The work of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Writing Awards prizewinners can connect with current students who are going through their own struggles with issues of difference and discrimination and can inspire them to think and reflect.

Twenty-one years of prizewinning work is available free on online. Our anthology, Challenges to the Dream: The Best of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Writing Awards, brings together a powerful selection of poetry and prose from the writing contest’s history. A free study guide to the anthology—accessible below—is organized by themes with reading lists of relevant pieces, group discussion questions, and writing prompts.

New this year are two updated lesson plans on racial discrimination and the school experience, which we hope will be useful as you encourage students to read, discuss, and write about current events. Both are available below.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic and a transition in program leadership, the awards competition and celebration will not take place in 2020-2021.

The Challenges to the Dream study guide was written and compiled by Kitty Shropshire, doctoral candidate in Literary and Cultural Studies at Carnegie Mellon University, with assistance from M. Shernell Smith, executive director, Center for Student Diversity and Inclusion.