Law Library Stacks

To view PDFs Acrobat Reader

Back to Commemorative Observances

Overview

Constitution Day and Citizenship Day is observed each year on September 17 to commemorate the signing of the Constitution on September 17, 1787, and “recognize all who, by coming of age or by naturalization, have become citizens.”

This 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In 1952 Congress repealed this joint resolution and passed a new law moving the date to September 17 to commemorate “the formation and signing, on September 17, 1787, of the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.

Legislative Branch Documents

Joint Resolution authorizing the President of the United States of America to proclaim I Am An American Day, for the recognition, observance, and commemoration of American citizenship, Chapter 183, 54 Stat. 178, May 3, 1940.

Joint Resolution designating September 17 of each year as “Citizenship Day,” Chapter 49, 66 Stat. 9, February 29, 1952.

Public Law 105-225 (PDF), 112 Stat. 1253 Sec. 106, August 12, 1998, currently codified in 36 USC 106 (PDF).

Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2005, Public Law 108-447, 118 Stat. 2809, Div. J, Title I, Section 111, Dec. 8, 2004, currently codified in 36 USC 106 (PDF).

Back to Top

Executive Branch Documents

Presidential Proclamations and Executive Orders have been used by presidents to rule on substantive issues of law; to administrate the executive branch of government; and to make general announcements to the public. These general announcements, which exhort the public to observe a holiday such as Thanksgiving or honor a particular group of citizens as in National Black History Month, are usually issued in the form of a Presidential Proclamation. On many occasions Congress will pass a law specifically requesting the President to proclaim the recognition of a particular group of citizens, such as Jewish or Hispanic Americans.

1952 - President Truman proclaims the first Citizenship Day, Proclamation 2984, July 25, 1952, 3 C.F.R. 164 (1947-1953).

1955 - President Eisenhower proclaims the first Constitution Week, Proclamation 3109, August 19, 1955, 3 C.F.R. 56 (1954-1958).

2000 - President William J. Clinton’s Proclamation 7343 (PDF), Citizenship Day and Constitution Week, Sept. 17, 2000, 3 C.F.R. 7343 (2000).

2005 - Department of Education Notice of Implementation of Constitution Day and Citizenship Day on September 17 of Each Year. 70 Fed. Reg. 29727 (PDF).

2009 - President Barack H. Obama's Proclamation 8418 celebrating Constitution and Citizenship Day and designating the week of September 17-23 as Constitution Week, 74 F.R. 48129.

Presidential messages, statements and remarks before 1993 can be searched from the home page of the American Presidency Project (external link).

Presidential executive orders and proclamations as well as Presidential statements messages for Constitution Day and Citizenship Day from 1994 to the present can be searched from the Government Printing Office’s Advanced Search page in the collections for the Code of Federal Regulations, the Compilation of Presidential Documents and the Federal Register.

Journal Articles

Address Made by President Ranson, Constitution Day Address, 21 A.B.A. J. 644 (1935)

Walter Evans, Constitution Day, 3 Const. Rev. 16 (1919) (PDF, 184KB)

Constitution Day, September Seventeenth, 3 Const. Rev. 181 (1919) (PDF, 198KB)

The Observance of Constitution Day, 4 Const. Rev. 46 (1920) (PDF, 134KB)

Nathan Boone Williams, Constitution Day - September 17, 1951, 24 Rocky Mtn. L. Rev. 28 (1951-1952)

Back to Top

Web Resources

Bill of Rights Institute - Constitution Day (external link)
Center for Civic Education - Lessons for Constitution Day and Citizenship Day (external link)
Government Printing Office ACCESS - Constitution Main Page

Library of Congress:

National Constitution Center - Constitution Day (external link)
National Endowment for the Humanities - Constitution Day
Office of Personnel Management - Constitution Initiative
U.S. Department of Education - U.S. Constitution Teaching and Learning Resources

U.S. National Archives and Records Administration:

U.S. Senate - The Constitution

Law Library of Congress Constitution Day Event 2011

The Supreme Court and Free Speech by Dahlia Lithwick

Back to Top

Last Updated: 02/28/2014