On Saturday, Black communities in Massachusetts celebrated Negro Election Day. The holiday in Massachusetts dates back to 1741, celebrating festivities in which enslaved people elected leaders.

Revs. Irene Monroe and Emmett G. Price III joined Boston Public Radio Monday to talk about the holiday’s history.

“It’s when all of the slaves inherently got together and they decided who their elder was — who their spokesperson was, who their liaison was — who would represent them in the opportunity when they had to actually coalesce their ideas and social desires and political agency,” Price said.

Last week, state legislators passed a bill approving the occasion as a new state holiday. The bill currently sits on Gov. Charlie Baker’s desk, and if passed, would designate the third Saturday in July as a holiday.

It predates the abolition of slavery in 1865, and the Fifteenth Amendment allowing all men to vote in 1870. Women did not earn the right to vote until 1920, but the fight for women’s suffrage focused on white women, meanwhile many states across the country continued to disenfranchise racial minorities, especially Black women. The United States did not pass the Voting Rights Act, prohibiting racial discrimination in voting, until 1965.

Negro Election Day celebrations in other parts of the country, especially in the South, date even farther back beyond 1741. In Massachusetts, festivities traditionally take place in Salem Willows Park in Salem, with food, a parade and music. Speakers this year included U.S. Attorney Rachael Rollins, attorney general candidate and former City Councilor Andrea Campbell, Boston NAACP head and secretary of state candidate Tanisha Sullivan and Lynn Mayor Jared Nicholson.

“One of the arguments or myths that rolls around is that surely the North didn't have slavery, they only provided the ships,” Monroe said. “We had a critical mass in such a place, not only in Salem, but in a lot of the mill towns throughout Massachusetts. ... [The holiday] really highlights Black self-governance, even in the midst of the structures of slavery here.”

Monroe and Price expressed frustrations over remaining debates about the holiday, including its historical legacy and name. Some prefer “Black Election Day,” but others support using the original title, Negro Election Day.

“We want to honor the name that the people themselves used, and it was Negro,” Monroe said.

Meanwhile, as many Republicans seek to sanitize teaching about American history on topics of race and injustice, Price said that recognizing Negro Election Day on the state level has added importance.

“My issue with this, not the celebration of it, is the fact that we're still debating whether we can teach this in school,” Price said. “You have a written documentation, a chronicling of this, and yet we're still wondering if it's going to make people feel bad about what really happened.”