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Current Event Essay Contest

Memphis shares a unique history with the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. His last civil rights campaign, his last speech, his last breath all occurred in downtown Memphis. Several of the city employees who were present during the Sanitation Strike still call Memphis home.          

In honor of this rich history and the wealth of resources available at the University Libraries’, McWherter Library is hosting an essay contest. We invite interested undergraduate and graduate students to respond to one of the relevant historical photographs in our University Libraries Digital Repository (ULDR): woaknb.wz.sk?query=sanitation+workers+strike&queryType=vitalDismax  

Prizes - Prizes will be awarded in two categories; undergraduate and graduate. Undergraduate First Place - $ / Honorable Mention - gift card; Graduate First Place - $ / Honorable Mention - gift card. First place winners must agree to read a portion of their essay at the awards reception (April 3) and allow their entries to be published in the Commercial Appeal. 

Essay Categories:

Personal Reflection Essay - Choose an image from the digital collection.  In a - word essay, and using some of the resources from the library, reflect on the meaning of the image as it relates to a specific personal event or historical event that happened to you or someone in your family or circle of influence. 

Historical Significance Essay - Choose an image from the digital collection.  In a – word essay, analyze the historical and or intellectual context of the image as it relates the overall concept of political or social justice.

Artistic Expression Essay - Choose an image from the digital collection.  In a word essay, discuss the artistic significance of the photo as it relates to the general social, political, or economic culture during the Civil Rights movement or current events.

Rules & Guidelines:

1. All essays must be submitted from an area college student’s campus email address
2. Students may submit only one essay, and it must be the student’s original work.
3. The essay must be typed in Times New Roman font, size 12, double spaced with standard one inch margins one side only.
4. The essay must be words or fewer.
5. Do not place your name or any other identifying information on any page of the essay. The name, phone number, college or university email address, student classification, and link to one ULDR image must be submitted in the body of the email as the entry form accompanying the essay.
6. All essays should be in response to one of the images on the images on the ULDR. The sources do not need to be from Dr. King but must relate to the topic of the essay.
7. Essays may NOT include photographs, images, illustrations, etc. The image selected by the authors will be displayed by the MLK50 committee during the awards presentation.
8. All essays will be judged on content relevancy to image and contest theme, originality of ideas and clarity of expression, personal perspective, organization, grammar, and guidelines.
9. All essays submitted become the property of the University Libraries and may be displayed on the website, in other university publications, or in locations throughout the campus community.
University of Memphis faculty and staff and/or their family members are not eligible.

Essays will be evaluated by a committee of faculty, staff, and students from the University of Memphis.  Decisions of the evaluation committee are final. The committee must receive a minimum of 3 essays in each category to run the contest

Deadline & Submission - Essays will only be accepted by email

  1. Essays should be sent to Shelia Gaines at sgaines1@woaknb.wz.sk and copied to Iesha Williams at nwllams4@woaknb.wz.sk
  2. The subject line of the email should contain only the title of the essay.
  3. Include in the text of your email the following information (This information serves as your ENTRY FORM for email submissions. Entries will not be read without the following): First and last name; Essay title; Student classification (graduate or undergraduate); Home street address, City, State, Zip Code; Telephone number with area code; link to selected image in ULDR.

Registration Deadline: Friday, February 24, , p.m.  - A confirmation will be sent to the email address listed on the registration form within three business days.

Notification of Winners - Finalists will be notified by phone and email and will be invited to attend the awards ceremony where the winners will be announced. 

Special Note - 1st, place essays winner must agree to read or a portion of their essay during the awards reception and allow their entries to be published on the library’s web page. By accepting a prize, winners grant to the University of Memphis, University Libraries, the MLK50 Committee the right to edit, publish, copy, display and otherwise use their entries in connection with this contest, and to further use their names, likenesses, and biographical information in advertising and promotional materials, without further compensation or permission, except where prohibited by law.  

Questions: Shelia Gaines, Head of Circulation /  or sgaines1@woaknb.wz.sk

All rules in Section apply to this contest.


Test Questions.  The 60 minute test will consist of 40 multiple choice questions and a written essay.  The contest will focus on a basic knowledge of current state, national and world events and issues.  “Current events” are defined as those which have occurred during the current school year.  (District Test &#; August 1 to December 15/State Test &#; October 1 to March 1. Contestants who fail to write an essay will be disqualified.

2. SOURCES AND ESSAY. ( No materials may be used during the exam)

  • Sources.  National daily newspapers or Texas metropolitan newspapers, business newspapers, specialized periodicals, weekly news magazines, journals of political or social nature, and other periodicals that report, summarize or explain world events shall be considered as contest sources.  “Current events” web pages available via the Internet are also excellent source of information.
  • Essays.  The essay should be of an expository nature.  The essay should be approximately words in length.  Contestants should attempt to substantially develop a full range of points relative to the essay prompt.  All contestants are required to answer the essay question.  Contestants who fail to write an essay shall be disqualified.  A grading rubric will be used to judge the essay question.  The essay will be used in the event of a tie score.


  • Reading the Contest Instructions.  The contest director will read the following directions exactly as they are printed:
    • Turn off your cell phone and any other electronic devices besides permitted calculators and place them on the edge of the table in front of you. You may not use your electronic device(s) in any manner during the contest. If your device(s) make any noise or if you use your device(s) in any manner, you will be disqualified.
    • Put your name, school, and school classification in the directed place on your test and answer sheet. Failure to put your name and school will result in disqualification. (Allow time for this to be done).
    •   Indicate your answers using capital letters on the appropriate blank provided on the answer sheet.  If a Scantron is used, mark your answers in the appropriate spaces.  Only a #2 pencil may be used for Scantron cards. Failure to do so will result in disqualification.  Clean erasures are necessary for accurate Scantron grading.
    • Keep your papers closed until told to do otherwise; this is particularly important while test papers are being distributed and before the signal to begin has been given.
    • During the test, no questions may be asked or answered.  The contestant talking or making distracting noises may be disqualified.
    • Leaving the room with any contest materials will result in disqualification.
    • Transferring information concerning this test to other contestants or coaches is a violation of the Academic Meet Code and subject to penalties up to and including disqualification.
    • You have 60 minutes for this test.  No oral time warnings shall be given.  You are required to turn off any audible signals on any timing devices during the contest.
    • You will receive 1 point for each correct answer. The essay is required, but will be judged only in the event of a tie. Failure to complete the essay will result in disqualification.
    • When the signal is given to stop, you must cease all writing.
    • If you finish the test before the allotted time, you may leave quietly.  No distracting noises will be permitted.  Turn in all your test materials as you leave.
  • Stop and Start Signals. Exactly 60 minutes after the start signal was given, announce that time has expired and that contestants must turn in their test.  If contestants are in the process of writing down an answer, they may finish; they may not do additional work on a test question.
  • Scoring.  Each contestant shall be awarded one point for each question answered correctly and no points will be given or subtracted for unanswered questions on the objective portion of the test.  Each contestant is required to write a short essay. No points will be given for the essay. One or three judges who are not coaches of the tied contestants shall rank the essay sections. The ranking of the judge(s) will break the tie. If three graders are used, the grader should not discuss the scoring of individual papers among themselves. Each contestant is required to answer the essay question. Failure to answer the essay will result in disqualification.
  • Ties.   In the event of a tie, those essays involved in the tie will be judged one against the other to break the tie.

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