Dr. Gill is an associate professor in the Department of History . She specializes in 20th century American social, cultural, political, diplomatic and religious history with a research focus on the 1960s.
The last few states to adopt the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday were largely non-southern, overwhelmingly white, and rural. Gill explores the political process by which one of these, Idaho, in 1990 became the 46th state to claim the holiday. In a conservative libertarian-leaning state with no significant non-white voting bloc and a weak understanding of King’s historical significance, politicians saw little need for the holiday until the Aryan Nations’ violent white-supremacist actions hurt the state’s image. Ironically, the Aryan Nations became Idaho’s “Bull Connor,” not only shaming the state into creating King Day, but schooling it in the pertinence of King’s movement, vision, and methods.