20 Years of Martin Luther King Jr. Day in N.H.: The History & What It Means Today

Jan 16, 2020

Credit Minnesota Historical Society

We examine the history of Martin Luther King Jr. Day in New Hampshire.  Twenty years ago, The Granite State was the last in the nation to attach King's name to its holiday, previously called Civil Rights Day.  We'll discuss that period with some of the people responsible for the change. And we'll explore what the holiday means now for older -- and younger -- generations.  


Air date: Jan. 16, 2020.   

GUESTS: 

  • Clifton Below - Former state representative and state senator over the course of twelve years, from 1992 to 2004. He was among the lawmakers who argued in favor of naming the 3rd Monday in January in honor of Martin Luther King Jt.  He is currently  assistant mayor of  the City of Lebanon. Below also served as a N.H. Public Utilities Commissioner for six years, ending in 2012. 
  • Sudi Lett - Youth and Education Coordinator for the Granite State Organizing Project, which works on social justice issues, including housing and education policy. He is also head coach of  Varsity Basketball at Manchester Central High School. He was a teenager when his father, Woullard Lett, who was head of the NAACP in New Hampshire at the time, worked to establish Martin Luther King Junior Day.
  • Jackie K. Weatherspoon - Former state representative who served three terms, she twice co-sponsored bills to establish Martin Luther King Jr. Day in New Hampshire, an effort that succeeded in 1999.  Weatherspoon has served with the United Nations as an electoral expert. She serves on the Federal U.S. Civil Rights Commmission on the State Advisory Committtee, is co-chair of the New Hampshire Democratic Party's African American Caucus, and a middle school teacher in the Harlem Children's Zone program. 

 Also joining us:  U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen:  New Hampshire’s senior Senator, Shaheen previously served as Governor of New Hampshire from 1997 to 2003 and signed the bill establishing the state’s Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, ending New Hampshire’s status as the only state in the nation not to recognize Dr. King’s birthday as an official holiday.   

Related Materials:

From NHPR's archives: Recordings from the day N.H. Governor Jeanne Shaheen hosted a ceremony before signing the bill recognizing Martin Luther King Junior Day. Included are brief remarks from bill sponsors and featured speaker Martin Luther King III. 

Listen to  NPR host Michel Martin's 2008 "Wisdom Watch" interview with former state representative Harvey Keye, who grew up in Birmingham, Alabama, marched with Martin Luther King Jr., and worked to help pass the N.H. bill establishing the third Monday in January as Martin Luther King Jr. Day.  In the interview, Keye describes the day of that vote.