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The History Behind D.C. Emancipation Day

Image of Signed DC Emancipation Act and an image of celebration of the DC Emancipation Day

On April 16 1862, Former U.S. President Lincoln signed the D.C. Compensated Emancipation Act of 1862 into law. This legislation abolished slavery in Washington, D.C. freeing approximately 3,000 formerly enslaved people.

The Compensation Received from the D.C. Compensated Emancipation Act of 1862

The compensation clause of the D.C. Compensated Emancipation Act of 1862 wrote into law that former White enslavers (that were loyal to the Union) were paid up to $300 for each freed enslaved person. Also, formerly enslaved people were paid $100, if they left America.

The End of Slavery in America

Three notable events that ended slavery in America that became into law after D.C.’s Emancipation Day are:

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  • The Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 was a presidential proclamation and executive order that declared “that all persons held as slaves” within the rebellious states “are, and henceforward shall be free.”
  • Juneteenth is a holiday that commemorates the freedom of the last remaining slaves in the United States.
  • The 13th Amendment is an amendment apart of the U.S. Constitution that abolishes slavery and involuntarily servitude in the United States, except for punishment of a crime.

D.C. Emancipation Day Holiday

The District of Columbia Emancipation Day Amendment Act of 2004 (D.C. Law 15-288) made April 16 a recognized holiday in D.C.

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