Massachusetts Senate Backs Observation Of Black History-Related Days

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BOSTON (State House News Source) – The Senate approved two bills Thursday that would set aside on the calendar a pair of ceremonial days related to Black history in Massachusetts.

Under a measure originally filed by Sen. Cindy Friedman (S 2704), July 8 would be observed as Massachusetts Emancipation Day.

Sen. Joan Lovely said that day would honor Quock Walker, whose case before the Supreme Judicial Court in 1783 established the legal precedent in this state that slavery was "in direct conflict with the commonwealth's newly-minted Constitution."

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"And yet, most people are completely unfamiliar with the case and with Quock Walker. That's why bringing awareness to Quock Walker and his story is so incredibly important," Lovely said on the Senate floor. "It shines a bright light on an important part of our history in the commonwealth, a part of our history that has been kept in the shadows or simply ignored for too long."

Last month, the House gave its initial approval to a bill (H 3117) designating July 8 as Massachusetts Emancipation Day a.k.a. Quock Walker Day.

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Under S 2703, the third Saturday in July would be observed by a ceremonial proclamation as Negro Election Day in recognition of "the adoption of the first black voting system." Lovely said that starting in 1740, enslaved people from Salem and across the region would hold an annual election to choose their own king or governor. That event eventually became the Black Picnic still held each summer in Salem.

"As we celebrate Black History Month, it is critical that we acknowledge and celebrate the many ways that African Americans have fought for change and pushed our country and commonwealth forward," Lovely said.

Written by Sam Doran, State House News Service.

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