Carnegie Mellon University
November 05, 2015

Martin Luther King, Jr. Writing Awards Accepting Entries Through Nov. 30

By Emily Stimmel / 412-268-1788 /

Since 1999, Carnegie Mellon University has hosted the Martin Luther King, Jr. Writing Awards as part of its campus-wide celebration of Dr. King’s legacy. The program encourages high school and college students throughout the Pittsburgh area to talk about race and discrimination through poetry and prose.

Students are invited to share personal narratives about their experiences with racial and cultural differences or personal reflections on Dr. King’s legacy that rely on concrete detail.

“Pieces like ‘Letter From Birmingham Jail’ show that some of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s most powerful confrontations with race and discrimination happened on the page,” said Rich Purcell, associate professor of English, who is directing this year’s awards program. “The awards exist to empower students to be just as audacious, thoughtful and brave about the discrimination they see as well as face themselves.”

Winning entries will be published and students will be invited to read their work on campus on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day (Monday, Jan. 18, 2016). Cash prizes will also be awarded.

Among the 2015 winners was Taylor Allderdice High School student Amma Ababio with her first-place prose piece, “The Ink That Gives the White Page a Meaning,” in which she describes her experiences emigrating from her birthplace in Ghana to the United States. She wrote, “I refuse to lose my dignity, self-respect and identity to assimilate in a society that does not respect who I am and the culture that I embody.”

Jim Daniels, the Thomas Stockham Baker University Professor of English, started the awards program 16 years ago to create a safe space where students can talk honestly about their shared experiences with discrimination.

“There’s a lot of heart in these awards and I think that’s one of the things that makes them special,” Daniels said.

Interested students are encouraged to submit their poetry or prose entries online as separate Microsoft Word attachments (.docx preferred). Entries also can be mailed to: MLK Writing Contest, Department of English, Baker Hall 259, CMU, 5000 Forbes Ave., Pittsburgh, PA 15213. Email questions to:

Entries should be no more than 2,000 words, double-spaced. Students may submit up to two poems.

Submissions should include the student’s name, school, age, title(s) of work(s), email address, home address and phone number. The deadline is Monday, Nov. 30.

The Martin Luther King, Jr. Writing Awards are sponsored by CMU’s Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences, the Department of English, the Division of Student Affairs and the Office of the President.

Learn more about the writing awards.

Related links:

Photos of the 2015 Martin Luther King, Jr. Writing Awards Ceremony and Concert

Video: The Martin Luther King, Jr. Writing Awards

Submit an Entry