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Exhibit on the struggle for racial justice at the Edward W. Brooke Courthouse


Some 237 years after the Massachusetts judicial courts liberated Quock Walker, a 28-year-old man enslaved in Worcester County, it is clear that the experience of African Americans in Massachusetts courts has been eventful — often at the core of the state’s history in ways both positive and negative.

If you go

what: “Long Road to Justice: The African American Experience in the Massachusetts Courts” installation ceremony

where: Brooke Courthouse, 24 New Chardon St., Boston

when: 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., Feb. 8

“Long Road to Justice: The African American Experience in the Massachusetts Courts,” an exhibit describing that journey in fresh detail, will be unveiled on Thursday, Feb. 8, at its permanent location in the Edward W. Brooke Courthouse.

Former Gov. Deval Patrick will be among the speakers and Roderick Ireland, the first African American chief justice of the Supreme Judicial Court, will be among those honored in the exhibit. Harvard School of Law Professor Randall Kennedy will serve as the event emcee.

The exhibit describes the history, including the enforcement of the Fugitive Slave Act over tumultuous protest, the finding of segregation in the Boston Public Schools, and the elevation of African Americans Gov. Patrick, Chief Justice Roderick Ireland, and former Senator and Massachusetts Attorney General Edward W. Brooke to the state’s highest positions in all three branches of government.

The exhibit is particularly significant today when racial diversity is given minimal consideration in the nomination for federal judgeships and U.S. attorneys.

“This is the story of the continuing struggle of African Americans for justice in Massachusetts, from their arrival in chains in 1638 to the present,” noted Judge Julian Houston (ret.), who initiated the project and has served as its chair.

The exhibit, initially created in 2000, has been updated with a particular focus on lessons for middle and high school students throughout the Commonwealth.

“Long Road to Justice” is sponsored by the Justice George Lewis Ruffin Society, which is affiliated with the Northeastern University School of Criminology and Criminal Justice.