MLK Recitation Competition

What is it?

On Martin Luther King, Jr. Day 2019 (Monday, January 21), middle and high school students will gather in Asheville, NC to celebrate the words and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. through a recitation competition.

Students will seek to perform the most accurate and engaging reenactment of some of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s most famous and important speeches.

$500 in prizes are available to the top middle school and high school competitor. Participants will be judged on:

- Physical Presence

- Voice and Articulation

- Dramatic Appropriateness

- Evidence of Understanding

- Overall Performance

When and Where?

7:00 PM - 8:00 PM Monday, January 21, 2019 (Martin Luther King, Jr. Day)

Address: 39 S. Market Street, Asheville, NC 28801

Phone #: ‚Äč(828) 257-4540

Who can compete?

- Any student currently in grades 6-12 are eligible to compete. There will be separate winners in the middle (6-8) and high school divisions (9-12).

How does this competition work?


1. Students will select one of the pre-selected speech excerpts and learn it.

2. Students will recite the speech and compete in their respective classrooms and schools.

3. School winners for each division will advance to the Finals at the YMI Cultural Center on January 21 in Asheville.

4. If you are a student wanting to compete individually (your teacher or classroom are not competing), please email us at and let us know. We encourage you to participate!


1. Please email us to let us know you have elected to use the recitation competition in your classes and plan to hold a class competition.

2. Share the competition details with your class. Consider integrating with a lesson plan on MLK. We recommend the MLK resources from Teaching Tolerance.

3. Hold a competition in class and send us the name of your winner that will move on to the Finals at the YMI. Please send these to us by Wednesday, January 16. Email names to


Why isn't "I Have a Dream" listed as one of the excerpts to recite?

- When schools teach students about MLK, often "I Have a Dream" is the speech that is used. While we believe "I Have a Dream" is one of the great speeches on civil rights, we hope this competition will allow students and teachers to learn about MLK's many other outstanding writings and speeches that may be sometimes overlooked.

Do I need to try and sound just like Dr. King?

- No! We want each student to be themselves. The words are what are important. This is not an MLK impersonation contest, but a competition that measures each student's ability to recite these speeches accurately and with their own personal delivery style(s). Please review the "Recitation Tips" page to learn more and the "Scoring" page to learn about what, specifically, judges will be looking for.

What if the student is home-schooled or is the only student participating from a school?

- No problem! We want to include as many people as possible while ensuring the Final event is reserved for the most proficient competitors this year. Please email and let us know if you have a student in this situation and we can work something out (options may include competing at a local school or competing with other students in a separate pre-Finals event).

Does the student have to live in the Asheville area to participate?

- No. Any student anywhere is welcome to participate.

How much does it cost to participate in the contest and to attend the Final event?

- There is no cost to participate or compete.

- There is no cost to attend the Final event, though we will take donations at the door to benefit the YMI Cultural Center. All are welcome and encouraged to attend.

Note: This event has been approved by The King Center and is co-sponsored by BeLoved Asheville.