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The Dartmouth
May 24, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

N.H. rejects King day

Last Friday the New Hampshire legislature rejected a bill calling for a state holiday recognizing Martin Luther King Jr.

It was the eighth rejection of the bill in 14 years. New Hampshire is the only state in the country without a King holiday.

The bill died in the state's House of Representatives by a vote of 199-163.

"The vote came as a surprise," Hosea Harvey '95 said. "New Hampshire voters thought they voted for change and they were wrong."

New Hampshire Governor Stephen Merrill, a Republican who took office this January, had signed an order to add King's name to a holiday called "Civil Rights Day."

Merrill had promised to sign an executive order every year until the holiday is officially renamed "Martin Luther King Jr. Civil Rights Day."

A group called the New Hampshire Martin Luther King Day Committee was formed in Concord in 1988 to promote the holiday. In response to growing statewide pressure a compromise was reached creating "Civil Rights Day" in 1991, said Arnie Alpert, a committee spokesman.

The current holiday satisfies many citizens, Alpert said in an earlier interview, because it recognizes the efforts of civil rights activists in general rather than those of one individual.

"Naming the day after one hero adds to the divisiveness," Representative Vivian Clark told The Boston Globe. "I am delighted that New Hampshire decided to call it Civil Rights Day instead."

Joey Hood '96, a native resident of New Hampshire, said the holiday should be named for King. "He was so unique," he said. "We just can't lump him in with everyone else."

Other residents do not support the proposed King holiday because they believe King was an black leader, not a people leader, Alpert said.

"It is not easy for most New Hampshirites to relate to him," Alpert said. "But there are many non-whites here, and King was an American leader, not just an African-American leader."

Harvey said he blames The Manchester Union Leader, the state's largest newspaper, for the bill's death. He said the conservative daily, which writes editorials against Martin Luther King Day every year, has great influence over the state legislature.

"Certain legislators are trying to frame King in an unfavorable light," Harvey said. "They call him a communist and a radical and forget that he really stood for peace and nonviolent change."

"This state needs to be pressured from other states as well as other outside forces," Hood said. "I think the populous understands King's importance. We just need to pass that along to our representatives."

Alpert told the Globe he believes the bill's rejection will result in a national anti-New Hampshire sentiment. He also said the committee will have to discuss what to do next.

"It's embarrassing to be living here especially when 49 other states have already accepted the holiday," Hood said.

The College has recognized Martin Luther King Day since 1987.