Constitution Day: History & Timeline
By act of Congress, Constitution Day is observed on September 17 each year to commemorate the date the signing of the Constitution and to “recognize all who, by coming of age or by naturalization, have become citizens.”
Although it’s been formally recognized as Constitution Day only since 2004, it actually began much earlier, in 1940, when Congress authorized the president to proclaim the third Sunday in May as “I Am An American Day,” recognizing all who had attained citizenship.
In 1952, Congress passed a new law setting the date on September 17 to commemorate the signing of the Constitution on that date in 1787. However, it retained its designation as “Citizenship Day.”
The 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.”
It formally became Constitution Day and Citizenship Day in 2004, with two new provisions:
Adapted from Law Library of Congress: http://www.loc.gov/law/help/commemorative-observations/constitution-day.php#skip_menu
- the head of each federal agency provide each new employee with educational and training materials concerning the Constitution and also provide such materials to every employee on September 17 of each year; and
- every educational institution that receives federal funds shall hold an educational program on the Constitution for students on September 17 of each year.