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Legislature Enacts Bill Establishing Negro Election Day

Thursday, the Massachusetts Legislature enacted S.2703, An Act establishing the third Saturday in July as Negro Election Day. This legislation designates Negro Election Day as an official state holiday and commemorates the rich history of civic engagement and involvement among Massachusetts’ Black communities.

Negro Election Day began in 1639.  Years before the passage of the 15th Amendment and prior to the 13 colonies declaring their independence. Enslaved and free individuals from within Salem and across New England would come together to hold an election of a king or governor, exercising a system of Black self-governance. This annual tradition continued long after African Americans were granted the right to vote in 1870. During World War II, the event began to take place on the third Saturday in July to ensure that African Americans, whose work was critical to our nation’s war effort, could attend. Leading jazz musicians would lend this gathering an appropriately festive air. 

“I am deeply grateful to the Massachusetts Legislature for enacting my bill establishing Negro Election Day,” said Senator Joan B. Lovely (D-Salem). “This annual celebration demonstrates that our communities of color have always been engaged in our Commonwealth’s civic process. We must continue to commemorate the meaningful milestones African Americans have contributed to Massachusetts and our nation today and in all the days going forward. I would like to thank Salem United, Inc. and it’s President Doreen Wade for their unwavering advocacy and support, Senate President Karen Spilka, my Senate colleagues and Representative Paul Tucker for pushing this legislation forward.”

“I am humbled to have been a part of such a historical moment for the city of Salem. Negro Election Day is not just a holiday, but a recognition of the African American community’s historical legacy, which is instructive and a great lesson for us all. I am appreciative to have learned of this history and for the leadership of Senator Lovely and Salem United Inc.,” said Representative Paul F. Tucker.


“I am honored and proud that Negro Election Day, which was once a holiday in 1741, has now returned to its holiday status in 2022. We could not have done this without the persistence and the loyalty of Senator Joan Lovely,” said Doreen Wade, President of Salem United, Inc. 

Based in Salem, Massachusetts Salem United, Inc. and its President Doreen Wade have preserved and promoted the legacy of Negro Election Day on the North Shore. In the summer of 2021, they organized an exhibit at Hamilton Hall to display the rich history of Negro Election Day. The grand opening was attended by Senator Lovely, the League of Women Voters Salem Chapter, Representative Paul Tucker and Governor Charles Baker. Working together with Senator Joan B. Lovely and Representative Paul Tucker, they have been staunch advocates of S.2703.

The legacy of Negro Election Day is a lasting one and is more important than ever today given many of the challenges facing our nation. This event celebrates meaningful milestones in civic engagement, civil rights, and culture.

With versions of this bill having been enacted by the House and Senate, An Act establishing the third Saturday in July as Negro Election Day now moves before the Governor for approval.

While it waits to get Governors approval, himself and the Lieutenant governor sent a letter of support .

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