Selma Speech & Essay Contest

As we approach the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday, consider using this essay contest as an opportunity to have your students reflect on one of M.L.K. Jr.’s most important legacies – leading marches from Selma to Montgomery in support of voting equality.

Essay Prompt:

“The movie Selma tells the story of how Martin Luther King, Jr. and others peacefully protested to advance voting rights. What do you think needs to be done today to protect individual freedom and self-determination? What are you doing or will you do to peacefully advance those rights?”

Important Info:

  • The contest is open to high school students aged 14-18.
  • The deadline is Friday, Jan. 30, 2015.
  • Applicants should submit both their written essay and a taped speech. The speech consists of the videotaped recording of the entrant’s essay.
  • Click here to enter the contest.

Contest Prizes:

  • One grand prize: $5,000
  • First runner up: $2,500
  • Second runner up: $1,000
  • Seven honorable mentions: $500 each
  • $300 cash prize for each teacher/mentor who sponsors a top 10 finalist

Get more information about the contest including rules and FAQs at the contest website.

Primary Sources

2015 marks the 50th anniversary of the Selma march and President Johnson’s signing into law of the Voting Rights Act on August 6, 1965. Here are links to some key primary source documents that you might consider highlighting with your students, or to create an opportunity for students to respond in writing to historical documents.

You can also find many more primary sources, lesson plans, images and videos on the NEA’s “Teaching About the Selma to Montgomery Marches” webpage.