Lexington Honors Quock Walker Ahead Of Massachusetts Emancipation Day

Photo: Suzanne Sausville/WBZ NewsRadio

LEXINGTON, Mass. (WBZ NewsRadio) — Monday, July 8 is the second Massachusetts Emancipation Day, marking 281 years since the Supreme Judicial Court decision that ended slavery in the Bay State.

In 1781, Quock Walker, a Black man born enslaved in Massachusetts, escaped from his alleged owner Nathaniel Jennison. Walker's previous owners promised him freedom, but after they died, Jennison refused to follow through with the emancipation.

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After Walker escaped, Jennison tracked him down and severely beat him. Walker sued for assault and battery, and in the case's 1783 decision, Chief Justice William Cushing of the SJC not only ruled in Walker's favor, but deemed slavery to be incompatible with the Massachusetts Constitution.

The decision effectively abolished slavery in the commonwealth.

In late 2022, state lawmakers signed legislation to make July 8 Massachusetts Emancipation Day, otherwise known as Quock Walker Day.

On Saturday, Lexington residents celebrated Quock Walker Day a few days early with a full slate of educational events and speakers at the Lexington Visitors Center.

"The audacity of actually believing in the American Dream and the idea that all men and women are born free, we have [Quock Walker] to thank for that courage and for that persistence," said State Senator Michael Barrett, who co-sponsored the emancipation day bill.

The celebration included a performance by the William Diamond Junior Fife & Drum Corps, as well as live music and West African dance lessons from Crocodile River Music.

There was also a food truck, colonial games, and a flax processing demonstration.

WBZ's Suzanne Sausville (@WBZSausville) reports.

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