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The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

The Nation's Premier Civil and Human Rights Coalition

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights  & The Leadership Conference Education Fund
The Nation's Premier Civil and Human Rights Coalition

The District of Columbia Celebrates Emancipation Day Today

April 16, 2009 - Posted by The Leadership Conference

Man holding sign that says

A District resident at the "Emancipation Day Parade and Rally for Statehood" in Franklin Square in Washington, D.C.

April 16 is Emancipation Day in Washington, D.C.

On April 16, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Compensated Emancipation Act. The Act immediately freed 3,100 slaves within the District, provided up to $300 of compensation to former owners who remained loyal to the Union, and provided opportunities for freed slaves to return to Africa by offering $100 to any former slave that chose to emigrate.

This happened nine months before the Emancipation Proclamation, which freed slaves in the Confederate states.

In 2005, Emancipation Day became an official holiday in the District.  City employees receive the day off and public schools are closed and there are a number of educational and commemorative events.

When Mayor Adrian Fenty took office in 2007, he used Emancipation Day celebrations to highlight the continued struggle for D.C. voting rights.

Currently, District residents do not have full-voting representation in Congress. A bill that will give Washington, D.C., a full-voting member in the House of Representatives for the first time passed the Senate in February and is currently pending in the House.

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