Galveston Historical Foundation’s African American Heritage Committee and Old Central Cultural Center, Inc. will honor winners of their annual essay contest at 3 p.m., Sunday, January 14, 2018 at Old Central Cultural Center, 2627 Avenue M. The event is free and open to the public with a complimentary lunch.
“The messages and speeches of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. always carried the theme of peace and fairness worldwide,” explains contest organizer Ella Lewis. “This contest is meant to challenge students to think about how civil rights and diversity affect their lives and how they can continue the work of Dr. King in their own way. Dr. King was inspired by Gandhi’s message to be the change he wished to see in the world.”
Students wishing to enter are asked to write an original, 350-word essay on “Be The Change.” Submissions are due by Monday, January 8, 2018, at 3 p.m. and must be typed, double-spaced and contain a cover sheet with name, grade (grades 9 through 12 only), school, home address and telephone number. The contest is open to Galveston high school students only, including those homeschooled, and submissions can be emailed to email@example.com or mailed to the Old Central Cultural Center at P.O. Box 2111, Galveston, Texas 77553. First place will receive $300, second place $200, third place $100 and four honorable mentions will receive $50. Winners will read their essay at the award ceremony.
When the MLK essay contest was first conceived in 2000, the students’ assignment was to write a letter to Coretta Scott King, Dr. King’s widow. For the five years previous to her death, the students wrote these letters and the committee organizers mailed them to Mrs. King. The year before her death, King sent this response to organizers Maggie and Ennis Williams: “Please tell your students to continue to read and study about my husband, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and his life, and read books that he wrote. I hope they will grow to be like him and someday help those who need help. He gave his life loving and serving others.”
For more information, please contact Tommie Boudreaux at 409-740-0454, Ella Lewis at 409-740-4311 or Denise Alexander at 409-765-3410.
The Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Writing Awards
These awards are open to all high school and college students in the Pittsburgh area and any remote CMU locations. We seek personal narratives dealing with individual experience of racial or cultural difference or personal reflections on Dr. King's legacy that rely on concrete detail. The top three winners receive cash prizes.
Jim Daniels, Thomas Stockham Baker University Professor of English, established the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Writing Awards in 1999. The program builds on Daniels’ commitment to writing about race. He edited "Letters to America: Contemporary American Poetry on Race." In 2001, the event expanded to include a separate category for Carnegie Mellon students, working on the premise that the voices of college students, and their varying experiences, could and should interact with the young voices from the Pittsburgh community.
Help us continue to have these important conversations on racial and cultural differences. Please consider donating to the Martin Luther King Jr. Writing Awards. Your donation will go a long way in helping us continue to reflect on Dr. King's legacy. Make a gift today.
Media Coverage and Photo Gallery
Watch 2018 MLK Jr. Day Writing Awards Founder Jim Daniels talk about the awards and hear students Emma Steckline, Dietrich student Mariah Barnes, Carnegie Mellon University School of Music student Marina Lopez talk about their award-winning entries on Pittsburgh Today Live.
Read Jim Daniels discuss the origins of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Writing Awards and his experience in a writing class with James Baldwin in Poets & Writers.
Watch Javier Spivey's short film, based on his poem "some assembly required" which placed third in the college poetry division at the 2017 MLK Jr. Writing Awards.
Read the Mayoral Proclamation that acknowledges the special role of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Writing Awards in the City of Pittsburgh.
Watch this Pittsburgh Post-Gazettevideoto learn what identity means to the 2015 MLK Jr. Writing Awards winners!
The MLK Jr. Writing Awards is also accompanied with a performance by musical theater students from Carnegie Mellon's School of Drama. You can see more photos from the 2019 event here.
The contest guidelines specifically request personal narratives on race. We believe that if we learn each other's stories, the barriers begin to break down. We begin to see each other asindividual human beings, struggling the way we all must, to live good lives and treat each other decently. We are all parts of different communities, and we reach out and cross over in strange, often surprising ways. The King Writing Awards provides a common ground for all these communities. Aspart of the University’s day-long schedule of panel discussions and performing arts presentations, the winners of this contest read in the University Center’s main lecture hall to an audience of hundreds.
In addition, each year, a book of award winners' work is published and distributed at the event. This archive of those books is meant to keep the discussion going by making this writing accessible to an even larger audience. Past winners and their work are listed in the award booklets below, starting with the current year.