2015 Essay Submission

For those interested in submitting an essay, please remember the following:

• Submit your essay to
• When submitting your essay, please identify yourself in the subject line as faculty, staff, undergraduate student or graduate student.
• The essay should be a minimum of three pages, maximum of seven pages, double spaced.
• There will be a $500 prize for each category; faculty, staff, undergraduate student and graduate student.
• The deadline for submission is Friday, January 30 at 5pm.

2015 Essay Competition Prompt

“We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now.”
From: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Where do we go from Here: Chaos or Community? (New York: Harper & Row Publishers, Inc., 1967): 191.

The year 2015 marks the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, yet, despite the hopeful legacy of and intent behind this landmark legislation, recent events in Cleveland, Ferguson and across the United States prove we still have a considerable amount of work to do to dismantle the structure of institutionalized racism, sexism, and other destructive “isms” imbedded in our society. This year, our theme is "Our Call to Action: Movement, Media and Mobilization", and we invite faculty, staff and students to contribute their reflections on where we are and where we need to go next.

Essay Prompt:
In his final book, Where do we go from Here: Chaos or Community?, Dr. King considered where the Civil Rights Movement needed to go in order not only to maintain crucial momentum towards defeating racism and institutionalized social inequalities, but how the very concept of civil rights could effect a global reimagining of what it means to be human. Though he was looking at the situation of 1967, many of the battles Dr. King outlined related to racial/ethnic disparities in access to education, economic and professional advancement and political agency continue to be fought today. Similar battles are also being waged to dismantle inequalities in the definition and perception of gender, sexuality, religion, dis/ability, neurodiversity, and every other area of human difference, in an effort to fully embrace the nuances of what it means to be human and the intersections we share within these zones of identity.
Please choose one of the three quotes below as a framework for your response, and consider one or all of the following questions: What are the challenges facing the Civil Rights Movement today? How does the media and our increasingly interconnected global community help propagate the movement? In what ways does it hinder progress, police identity and reinforce stereotypes? How can we use the progress we have made and lessons learned to effect change in our current movements for civil rights?

Quote #1: “Are we more concerned with the size, power and wealth of our society or with creating a more just society? The failure to pursue justice is not only a moral default. Without it, social tensions will grow and the turbulence in the streets will persist despite disapproval or repressive action. Even more, a withered sense of justice in an expanding society leads to corruption of the lives of all Americans. All too many of those who live in affluent America ignore those who exist in poor America; in doing so, the affluent Americans will eventually have to face themselves with the question that Eichmann chose to ignore: How responsible am I for the well-being of my fellows? To ignore evil is to become an accomplice to it.”
From: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Where do we go from Here: Chaos or Community? New York: Harper & Row Publishers, Inc., 1967, page 86.

Quote #2: “I came to see that no one gives up his privileges without strong resistance.”
From: Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story. New York: Harper & Row Publishers, Inc., 1958, page 113.

Quote #3: “The stability of the large world house which is ours will involve a revolution of values to accompany the scientific and freedom revolutions engulfing the earth. We must rapidly begin the shift from a ‘thing’-oriented society to a ‘person’-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism and militarism are incapable of being conquered. A civilization can flounder as readily in the face of moral and spiritual bankruptcy as it can through financial bankruptcy.”
From: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Where do we go from Here: Chaos or Community? New York: Harper and Row, Publishers, 1967, page 186.

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Read the winners

What does a winning essay look like? Past winners of the Martin Luther King Jr. essay contest share their works. Read recent essays.