Carnegie Mellon University

Updated Lesson Plans for Fall 2020


The Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Writing Awards honors the power of the written and spoken word. But no words can help George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery, or the countless other Black Americans who have died as the result of racist violence throughout our country’s history; and words that are not coupled with action cannot bend the arc of history towards justice, or console us in our mourning. 

We developed updated materials on racial discrimination and the school experience to help you respond to current events and encourage your students to read, discuss, and write about these issues. They can be adapted for in-person and online classes, given the uncertainty about the upcoming school year. Additionally, the coronavirus itself has exposed many inequities that students may want to address in their writing.

While we are featuring these two topics, we encourage you to explore our complete online study guide for other possible units based on previous prizewinning workPast prizewinners have addressed a wide range of related topics, including racism, ethnic and cultural prejudice, assimilation and identity, gender/sexual orientation, religious persecution, sexism and sexual assault, mental and physical differences, and stereotyping of all kinds. 

We hope you will find the following materials useful in your classrooms and in prompting writing that might be shared in this year’s writing awards competition. 

With thanks to Kitty Shropshire, doctoral candidate in Literary and Cultural Studies at Carnegie Mellon University, and M. Shernell Smith, executive director, Center for Student Diversity and Inclusion, for their work on the original study guide.