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Lexington Holds Massachusetts Emancipation Day Community Celebration

Members and supporters of the Association of Black Citizens of Lexington during the 4th Annual Quock Walker Day Hike for Freedom. (Photo Courtesy Lex250 Commission)

LEXINGTON — On Saturday, July 6, the Association of Black Citizens of Lexington held a community celebration of Massachusetts Emancipation Day, also known as Quock Walker Day.

Observed in Lexington since 2021 and recognized as a state holiday by the Governor in 2023, the day celebrates the July 8, 1783 decision of the Supreme Judicial Court that ended slavery in Massachusetts.

This was the third of the Quock Walker Cases. Walker was a Black man from Barre, MA who self-emancipated in 1781 and was deemed to a free man and awarded 50 pounds for assault and battery by a civil jury in June 1781.   

The community celebration was supported by the Lex250 Commission, the organizers of the 250th Anniversary celebration of the Battle of Lexington in 1775.

Lexington Minute Men reenactors discussing the Revolutionary War equipment used by Black and White Patriots in the exhibit hall of the Quock Walker Day Community Celebration in Lexington. (Photo Courtesy Lex250 Commission)

“The audacity of Quock Walker is inspiring. His personal gambit was successful because of his body of work within the community and the decision of two White men to pay a Black man for his expertise and labor. Yeoman Walker and White male juries made the promise that ‘All men are born free and equal’ of Article 1 of the 1780 Massachusetts Constitution a reality,” ABCL Historian Sean D. Osborne said.

“The morning Hike for Freedom commemorated the initial journey from enslavement to employment that Walker took in 1781. The Community Celebration and the Governor’s Proclamation reminded us that there were Black farmers, soldiers, artisans and abolitionists across the Massachusetts Bay Colony who helped to build the foundation for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts before, during, and after the Revolutionary War,” Mr. Osborne said.

The opening ceremony in Lexington was attended by a number of dignitaries including State Sen. Cindy Friedman, who read the Governor’s Proclamation of Quock Walker Day, State Sen. Mike Barrett, State Rep. Michelle Ciccolo, and Lexington Select Board Chair Doug Lucente.

“The Lex250 Commission is proud to support Quock Walker Day,” Lex250 Commission Chair Suzie Barry said. “We want to make the 250th birthday of our country unlike any other by celebrating the lesser-known stories of our early history, including those involving emancipation, such as Quock Walker Day.”

Live music by Crocodile River Music during the Quock Walker Community Day Celebration in Lexington. (Photo Courtesy Lex250 Commission)
The William Diamond Junior Fife & Drum Corps performing during the Opening Ceremony of Quock Walker Day. (Photo Courtesy Lex250 Commission)
A West African dance workshop being held during the Quock Walker Community Day Celebration in Lexington. (Photo Courtesy Lex250 Commission)