Officially known as Constitution Day and Citizenship Day, this federal holiday is observed each year to commemorate the signing of the U.S. Constitution on September 17, 1787, and to "recognize all who, by coming of age or by naturalization, have become citizens."
With support of The Friends and other contributors, the Library of Congress holds an annual Constitution Day program. The program focuses on a major legal question or issue under the U.S. Constitution, traditionally in the form of a lecture held at the Law Library of Congress. This event is free of charge and open to the public.
Previous Constitution Day Events
2016: Religious Freedom & the U.S. Constitution
In commemoration of Constitution Day 2016, the Law Library of Congress hosted a public program that examined the right of religious freedom, which is protected by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.
Speakers included Robert P. George, McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton University, and Jess Bravin, Supreme Court correspondent for the Wall Street Journal.
Discovery Education: Behind the Scenes with the Founders
In honor of Constitution Day, Discovery Education took viewers behind-the-scenes at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. to meet the new Librarian of Congress, take a tour of the largest library in the world, and get a candid look into the minds that founded our country.
The content of this virtual field trip is appropriate for upper elementary, middle, and high school students.
Explore: The Broadside Collection
in the Rare Book Division of the Library of Congress
The impressive and historic Broadside Collection contains 277 documents relating to the work of Congress and the drafting and ratification of the Constitution. Items include extracts of the journals of Congress, resolutions, proclamations, committee reports, treaties, and early printed versions of the United States Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.
A number of these rare items contain manuscript annotations not recorded elsewhere that offer insight into the delicate process of creating consensus. In many cases, multiple copies bearing manuscript annotations are available to compare and contrast.
Constitution Day History
The Constitution Day and Citizenship Day commemoration had its origin in 1940, when Congress passed a joint resolution authorizing and requesting the President to issue annually a proclamation setting aside the third Sunday in May for the public recognition of all who had attained the status of American citizenship. The designation for this day was “I Am An American Day.”
In 1952, Congress repealed this joint resolution and passed a new law moving the date to September 17 to commemorate “the formation and signing, on September 17, 1787, of the Constitution of the United States.” The day was still designated as “Citizenship Day” and retained its original purpose of recognizing all those who had attained American citizenship. This law urged civil and educational authorities of states, counties, cities and towns to make plans for the proper observance of the day and “for the complete instruction of citizens in their responsibilities and opportunities as citizens of the United States and of the State and locality in which they reside.”
In 2004, under Senator Byrd's urging, Congress changed the designation of this day to "Constitution Day and Citizenship Day" and added two new requirements in the commemoration of this Day. The first is that the head of every federal agency provide each employee with educational and training materials concerning the Constitution on September 17th. The second is that each educational institution which receives Federal funds should hold a program for students every September 17th.