Oh Boy, What Are the Canaan Schools Up To Now? (UPDATED)

Update! Canaan Superintendent Nathan Freeman sent me an email saying that the “Civil Rights Day’ designation was a mistake that’s now been corrected. His full explanation can be found below.

Hey, everybody! Three-day weekend! Monday is Civil Rights Day!

Uhhh… what’s that again?

Yeah, “Civil Rights Day,” the preferred appellation among those who aren’t quite sure about that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. guy. Kind of a commie, wasn’t he? Definitely a troublemaker. I guess we have to give “them” a holiday, though.

The above image is from the calendar of the Canaan School District, which apparently cannot abide Dr. King’s name. Yes, Canaan, the former employer of Education Secretary Dan French and, lest we forget, the only district in Vermont that never adopted a mask mandate, even during the worst of the pandemic.

Look up “Civil Rights Day” on the Internet machine, and you’ll see that it’s a rarely-used alternate name for MLK Day. When it is used, it’s a blatant effort to avoid giving the good Doctor his own holiday.

“Civil Rights Day” exists in two states, Arizona and New Hampshire. Both states created “Civil Rights Day” when the idea of an MLK holiday was just a little to radioactive for many conservative precincts.

Arizona adopted “Civil Rights Day’ in 1987. It was the brainchild of disgraced governor Evan Mecham. For those unfamiliar, Mecham was a serial loser branded the Harold Stassen of Arizona, but in the 1986 election he barely won a three-way contest with a Democrat and an independent. He got 40% of the vote. Shades of Paul LePage.

Mecham barely managed a year in office before he was ejected from office under not one, not two, but three ethical clouds. As Wikipedia puts it, “As governor, Mecham was plagued by controversy almost immediately after his inauguration and became the first U.S. governor to simultaneously face removal from office through impeachment, a scheduled recall election, and a felony indictment.”


The state had created an MLK holiday in 1986. Mecham campaigned on a promise to cancel it. And cancel it he did, in one of his first acts as governor. He explained himself to a group of Black community leaders thusly: “You folks don’t need another holiday. What you folks need are jobs.”

Mecham crafted Civil Rights Day as a way to avoid actually honoring Dr. King. It’s also a kind of “All Lives Matter” that removes race and ethnicity from the concept of civil rights.

In New Hampshire, Civil Rights Day was a compromise enacted in 1993 after more than a decade of debate over creating an MLK Day. Which had been adopted on the federal level ten years earlier by notorious socialist Ronald Reagan. New Hampshire didn’t apply Dr. King’s name to his own holiday until 1999. It was the last of the 50 states to do so.

Now you know the distinguished heritage of “Civil Rights Day.”

I’m not saying the Canaan School District is racist. But I am saying that in stripping the name of Dr. King from his holiday, it is giving aid and comfort to racists.


Update: Here is the text of Canaan Superintendent Nathan Freeman’s email to me.

“As the new Superintendent of Schools at Essex North Supervisory Union, I would like to thank you for pointing out a need for correction on the Canaan Schools calendar. Historically, Canaan Schools coordinates calendar scheduling with New Hampshire’s SAU7 Supervisory Union which may explain — but not excuse — why January 16th was referenced by the New Hampshire designation vs. the correct holiday name, Martin Luther King Jr. Day. I have made this correction on our calendar at the moment this was brought to my attention. On behalf of Canaan Schools, I offer my apology for this error and once again thank you for bringing this important concern to my attention.”

And it has, in fact, been changed to “Martin Luther King Day” on the school system’s calendar. I’ll take Mr. Freeman at his word. Canaan’s track record doesn’t inspire much confidence, but that’s not his doing. Since New Hampshire still calls the holiday “Civil Rights Day” (or, according to NH Gov. Chris Sununu, “Martin Luther King Civil Rights day”), his explanation makes sense. A bit careless, but stuff happens.  


5 thoughts on “Oh Boy, What Are the Canaan Schools Up To Now? (UPDATED)

  1. deebat

    Back when I was a state employee in Virginia, MLK Day was the back end of a four-day weekend. The front end, the preceding Friday, was Lee-Jackson Day. Worst.Holiday.Ever.

  2. John D.L. Black

    If only more community leaders and elected officials behaved the way that Superintendent Freeman did this day, our world would be better. Sadly, his response is not the norm and will invariably paint a target on his back.

  3. Vaughn Shaw-boire

    As a student from Canaan I can say there has not been any talk about this and no comment on the matter as well as the superintendent has been removed


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