BOSTON (11/29/2021) – On Wednesday, November 10, 2021, Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington) and Representative Michelle Ciccolo (D-Lexington) testified before the Joint Committee on State Administration and Regulatory Oversight in support of legislation they filed that would designate July 8th as Massachusetts Emancipation Day a.k.a. Quock Walker Day.
The bills, S.2059 and H.3117, An Act designating July 8 as Massachusetts Emancipation Day a.k.a. Quock Walker Day, would direct the Governor to issue a proclamation commemorating the day each year.
It is little known that on July 8, 1783, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled that the Constitution of the Commonwealth’s Declaration of Rights rendered slavery unconstitutional. Quock Walker, born to enslaved Black parents in Massachusetts, was the driving force behind this ruling. At 28 years old, after being promised his freedom on multiple occasions, Walker self-emancipated. Shortly after, Walker was found working nearby, was beaten and locked in a barn by his former enslaver. Walker sued his former enslaver for assault and battery and was found to be a free man by a jury of the Worcester County Court of Common Pleas. This ruling was appealed and the decision by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court again found that Walker was a free man and this critical decision served as the precedent that ended slavery in the Commonwealth on constitutional grounds and led to Massachusetts becoming the first state in the nation to abolish slavery.
“Bringing awareness to Quock Walker and his story is so incredibly important” said Senator Friedman, Chair of the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing. “Passing this bill is one step we can take to acknowledge the injustices in our history as well as celebrate Massachusetts’ part in setting a nationwide precedent for human rights. I am hopeful that it will soon become law.”