This week on Under the Radar:

You might know that Massachusetts was the first state in the nation to abolish slavery, but you probably haven’t heard how a Black man named Quock Walker was instrumental in making that happen.

Back in 1754, the state census counted 4,500 enslaved people in Massachusetts. Walker, born to enslaved Black people, was one of them. He self-emancipated at 28 years old. His punishment for leaving was a brutal beating by his former enslaver. Walker took his case to court where he won his freedom. The Walker legal victory became precedent leading to slavery's abolishment in the state.

Fast forward to 2022, and Massachusetts is on track to make Quock Walker Day a state holiday, also known as Massachusetts Emancipation Day. Why has it taken so long to learn the story of emancipation in Massachusetts? And will Quock Walker become a household name?


  • State Sen. Cindy Friedman, elected in 2017 to represent the Fourth Middlesex District, which includes Arlington, Billerica, Burlington, Woburn and precincts of Lexington. She filed the Quock Walker Day bill which passed the state senate in February.

On Saturday, July 9, 2022, the ABCL is hosting the second annual Quock Walker Day Hike for Freedom. Register here.