DC Emancipation Day

DC Emancipation Day

On April 16, 1862, during the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln signed an act which freed the 3000 slaves in the District of Columbia. This was nine months before he signed the Emancipation Proclamation freeing slaves held in the Confederate states, many of whom actually remained in bondage until the the war ended in 1865, and 20 months before ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment, which definitively outlawed slavery everywhere in the United States.

Understandably, April 16th is a holiday in the District of Columbia, District Emancipation Day, celebrated with speeches, concerts, fireworks and parades. There’s a bit of rain on that parade, though, if you take a closer look at history. That 1862 act was called the Compensated Emancipation Act, and it authorized payments to DC slaveowners rather than the straightforward liberation of enslaved people on moral grounds, and even sought to promote emigration of former slaves outside the borders of the United States.

In any case, the result was the same, and all black Washingtonians had their freedom. That’s definitely worth celebrating. If you’re in DC, enjoy the holiday. See you at the parade.

2015 DC Emancipation Day website.


“Emancipation Day still has resonance in Washington — but not for everyone,” Abigail Hauslohner, Washington Post


“The Emancipation Proclamation wasn’t enough: Inside the battle over the 13th amendment, which really ended slavery,” Leonard L. Richards, Salon


Short link: http://wp.me/p6sb6-lbO

Image by Mike Licht. Download a copy here. Creative Commons license; credit Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com

Comments are welcome if they are on-topic, substantive, concise, and not boring or obscene. Comments may be edited for clarity and length.

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