Citizenship Day, also known as Constitution Day, is a federally-observed holiday that recognizes the ratification of the United States Constitution and those who have become U.S. citizens. It is observed on September 17, the day the U.S. Constitutional Convention signed the Constitution in 1787. September 17, 2010 marked the 223rd anniversary of the ratification of the Constitution. The law establishing Citizenship Day as a federal holiday was created in 2004 with by Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV). The act mandates that all publicly-funded educational institutions provide some type of educational learning on the history of the Constitution on September 17th (or the day before/after if it falls on a weekend).
Schools across the country have created unique “U.S. Constitution and/or Citizenship Week” programs in order to meet the requirements of this law. Examples of ways to engage students in this learning include creating a Constitution trivia contest, distributing free copies of the U.S. Constitution, re-enacting this date in history by dressing up and creating a play based upon the Constitutional Convention, writing essays where students describe what freedom is most American to them and so on.
Not many people know that the idea to create a day to celebrate citizenship originated by a newspaper publisher. In 1939, William Randolph Hearst advocated, through his chain of daily newspapers, the creation of a holiday to celebrate pride in American citizenship. In 1940, the United States Congress designated the third Sunday in May as “I am an American Day.” On February 29, 1952, Congress moved that observation to September 17th and renamed it “Citizenship Day”. Louisville, Ohio, calls itself “Constitution Town” and credits one of its own local citizens for gaining national recognition for this holiday. In 1952, resident Olga T. Weber petitioned municipal officials to establish Constitution Day, in honor of the ratification of the US Constitution in 1789. Mayor Gerald A. Romary proclaimed September 17, 1952, as Constitution Day in the city. The following April, Weber requested that the Ohio General Assembly proclaim September 17 as state-wide Constitution Day. Her request was signed into law by Governor Frank J. Lausche. In August 1953, she took her case to the United States Senate, which passed a resolution designating September 17-23 as Constitution Week. The Senate and House approved her request and it was signed into law by President Dwight D. Eisenhower. On April 15, 1957, the City Council of Louisville declared the city “Constitution Town.” The Ohio State Archaeological and Historical Society later donated four historical markers, located at the four main entrances to the city, explaining Louisville’s role as originator of Constitution Day.