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Civil Rights Day in the United States

Civil Rights Day is a state holiday in Arizona and New Hampshire, in the United States, on the third Monday of January. It honors civil rights activists and is combined with Martin Luther King Day.

Is Civil Rights Day a Public Holiday?

Civil Rights Day is a public holiday in Arizona and New Hampshire, where it is a day off for the general population, and schools and most businesses are closed.

Some schools have lessons that focus on civil rights topics prior to Civil Rights Day.

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What Do People Do?

Many people in Arizona and New Hampshire observe Civil Rights Day to honor the civil rights movement. Some schools include lessons, quizzes and class reports about civil rights around this time of the year. Students who participate in these activities learn more about the history and importance of civil rights in the United States and globally.

The media play an important role in publicizing issues that center on the day. Many people read print or online articles and features, as well as watch special television programs or listen to radio segments about civil rights achievements and problems throughout history and in modern times.

Public Life

Civil Rights Day is a public holiday in Arizona and New Hampshire so many schools, state offices, and businesses are closed. There may be vehicle travel restrictions (oversize and overweight permits) on this day. Those who plan to use public transport on the day may need to check with their local transport authorities.  The third Monday of January is a postal holiday in the United States.

Background

New Hampshire used to observe Fast days before Civil Rights Day was introduced. Fast days were common throughout New Hampshire’s colonies for hundreds of years. These were days of public humiliation, fasting and prayer that governors issued to avoid plagues, earthquakes, crop failures and other unwanted events. The earliest known Fast Day proclamation was in Boston on September 8, 1670.

The New Hampshire legislature abolished its Fast Day in May in 1991 to create Civil Rights Day. The Day was scheduled to be observed annually on the third Monday of January, coinciding with Martin Luther King Day. A compromise was made to end 12 years of debate over the holiday – it was to delete the Martin Luther King Jr’s name from the official holiday name. However, many people in New Hampshire associate Martin Luther King Jr’s name with the holiday, as he was one of the United States’ most respected civil rights activists.

With regard to Arizona, on June 18, 1987, State Governor Evan Mecham issued a proclamation declaring "the third Sunday in January, commencing in 1988 and every year thereafter to be Martin Luther King, Jr. - Civil Rights Day in the State of Arizona...". However the proposal to create the Martin Luther King Day holiday was turned down in the Arizona Senate in 1988. In 1992, Arizona voters passed Proposition 300, which established a Martin Luther King/Civil Rights holiday on the third Monday of every January. Arizona observed this combined state holiday for the first time in 1993.

Civil Rights Day Observances

YearWeekdayDateNameHoliday TypeArea
2010MonJan 18Civil Rights DayState holidayArizona, New Hampshire
2011MonJan 17Civil Rights DayState holidayArizona, New Hampshire
2012MonJan 16Civil Rights DayState holidayArizona, New Hampshire
2013MonJan 21Civil Rights DayState holidayArizona, New Hampshire
2014MonJan 20Civil Rights DayState holidayArizona, New Hampshire
2015MonJan 19Civil Rights DayState holidayArizona, New Hampshire
2016MonJan 18Civil Rights DayState holidayArizona, New Hampshire
2017MonJan 16Civil Rights DayState holidayArizona, New Hampshire
2018MonJan 15Civil Rights DayState holidayArizona, New Hampshire
2019MonJan 21Civil Rights DayState holidayArizona, New Hampshire
2020MonJan 20Civil Rights DayState holidayArizona, New Hampshire

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