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Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Writing Contest

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

2021 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Writing Contest Winners


2022 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Writing Contest Guidelines


In his speeches and essays, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. employs a variety of creative writing techniques to add imagery to his writings, to enhance his themes and the inspirational tone of his work, and, most importantly, to reach a broad audience for his ideas.

In his I Have a Dream speech, for example, Dr. King makes use of banking metaphors and images of the seasons. Readers from all walks of life – from the impoverished man on the street, to the Harvard graduate – can connect to these everyday images, making King’s deep ideas about equality and freedom relatable to all. King likewise draws readers into his speech through his impassioned use of repetition. As his use of repetition gains momentum, readers and listeners become motivated and empowered by his words.

I Have a Dream illustrates a skillful and creative activist and writer at work. The language is simple, but King’s message is a powerful one that continues to inspire us today. In addition to rereading this speech with your teacher, you might, choose a number of King’s other speeches or essays for analysis. Pay special attention to King’s creative choices in the works: metaphor, simile, analogy, repetition, etc. What can you learn from his creative techniques that you can apply to your own writing?   

WRITE your own POEM on a contemporary social topic involving peace or protest that you feel would have gotten King’s attention were he still alive today. Like King, make use of a variety of creative techniques to help broaden your audience, capture your readers’ attention, and inspire your readers to make a difference.


For full consideration, be sure to follow the guidelines below:

Rules & Guidelines:

1.    Entry cover letter must be submitted with the poem and MUST include ALL of the following:

•    First Name
•    Last Name
•    Poem Title
•    School Grade & Age
•    Street Address, City, State, Zip Code
•    Telephone Number with area code
•    Parent’s Email Address
•    School Name & Teacher’s Email Address

2.    Do not place your name or any other identifying information on any other page.
3.    Students may submit only one poem of any length, and it must be the student’s original work.
4.    The poem must be typed in Times New Roman, 12pt font, single-spaced (except for stanza breaks), and aligned on the left-hand margin, NOT centered on the page.
5.    Poems may NOT include photographs, images, illustrations, etc.
6.    All poems will be judged on the works’ relevancy to theme, originality of ideas, clarity of expression, creativity, and grammar.
7.    All poems submitted become the property of Ohio University Southern and may be displayed on the website, in other university publications, or in locations throughout the community.  
8.    Children of Ohio University Southern faculty and staff are NOT eligible.

Poems will be evaluated by a committee of faculty, staff, and students from Ohio University Southern.  Decisions of the evaluation committee are final. The committee must receive at least five contest entries for each grade range to run the contest.


Prizes will be awarded in two categories; grades 6-8 and 9-12.  

    Grades 6th – 8th            Grades 9th – 12th
    First Place - $100.00        First Place - $100.00
    Second Place - $50.00     Second Place - $50.00
    Third Place - $25.00         Third Place - $25.00

1st, 2nd and 3rd place poems will be published on the Ohio University Southern website. Along with the cash award, students will receive a certificate of achievement, an OHIO t-shirt, and they will be recognized at the 30th Annual Ohio University Southern Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Celebration in January 2022.

Deadline& Submission

Email Submissions Only: (printed submissions that are mailed or walked in will not be accepted)

1)    Poems should be sent to

2)    In the subject area of the email write the title of your poem

3)    Attach the Poem as a .doc, .docx, or .pdf file. Please DO NOT paste the poem in the body of the email. (Do not include your name or any of the above information (except title) on your poem).

Deadline: Friday, January 7, 2022 at 5:00pm.  A confirmation will be sent to the email address listed on the registration form within three business days.

Notification of Winners

Winners will be notified by email and telephone.

Robert Pleasant,
Associate Director, Student Resource Commons
Ohio University Southern
740.533.4600 or