EVENT: Emancipation Day

By: Paulina Lam

This Monday, April 16 marks the 150th anniversary of the end of slavery in the District of Columbia. Emancipation Day remembers and honors more than 3,000 individuals in Washington who were granted freedom on Apr. 16, 1862.

On that day in 1862, President Lincoln signed the District of Columbia Emancipation Act, also known as Compensated Emancipation Act. The act stated:

“… all persons held to service or labor within the District of Columbia by reason of African descent are hereby discharged and freed of and from all claim to such service or labor …”

The act also stated that former slave-owners were to be compensated for their losses, up to $300 per person. Lincoln “compensated” the slave-owners because he didn’t want to lose the support of the slave-owners loyal to the union during the Civil War.

In January 1863, Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, which ended slavery in the rebellious states only, although he did not have power over these states. Slavery was finally abolished in loyal states following the end of the Civil War.

Although celebrated annually since 1862, Emancipation Day became an official holiday in Washington fairly recently, since 2005. Since then, a parade and many events celebrate the freedom of the enslaved.

You can visit the Capitol Visitor Center to see the original District of Columbia Emancipation Act on display till Sept. 9.

The following are a list of highlights for Emancipation Day 2012: Click HERE for a comprehensive list.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Civil War Encampment

Tudor Place Historic House and Garden (Georgetown)

10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Experience the sights and sounds of an authentic re-creation of a Civil War camp on the Tudor Place grounds. Adults: $10 Children: $5


Sunday, April 15, 2012


DC Emancipation Day Celebration

President Lincoln’s Cottage

2:30 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.

There will be an outdoor program commemorating this historic day, which will feature musical entertainment and Lincoln and Civil War Scholars. FREE.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Emancipation Day Parade
11 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Pennsylvania Avenue NW, between Third Street and 14th Street


Emancipation Day Street Festival and Fireworks
11 a.m. – 9 p.m.
Freedom Plaza, E Street NW between 13th and 14th streets



DC Emancipation Day Open House

Historical Society of Washington, D.C.

10 a.m. – 2 p.m.

View a display of highlights from local church collections and HSW’s collection including several pieces from the Kiplinger Washington Collection.


Cultural Tourism Emancipation Day Scavenger Hunt
All day

Do you have an iPhone or Android? Cultural Tourism has created a scavenger hunt of historic places around D.C. in celebration of this day, with the SCVNGR app for your smart phone. FREE.


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