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All District of Columbia city offices will be closed for Emancipation Day

Scenes from DC Emancipation Day 2013
Scenes from DC Emancipation Day 2013
Photo by Professor Metze

All District of Columbia city offices will be closed for customer service today in honor of DC Emancipation Day. April 16th, 2014, marks the 152 year since the African-American slaves were freed in the District of Columbia.

The District of Columbia honors African Americans freed from slavery
Photo by Professor Metze

“The Council of the District of Columbia remembers and pays homage to the millions of people of African descent enslaved for more than 2 centuries in America for their courage and determination,” the DC government said.

President Abraham Lincoln freed the African-American slaves in the District of Columbia 152 years ago on April 16, 1862. African-American Historian John Hope Franklin wrote about Lincoln’s decision in his classic work, From Slavery to Freedom.

“From the very beginning of the war there had been speculation as to whether or when the slaves would be emancipated. Most Northern Democrats were opposed and said unequivocally that slavery was the best status for blacks,” Franklin said. Frederick Douglass was the leading African-American anti-slavery spokesman in the nation with his famous speech, What to the American Slave is the 4th of July.

Franklin notes that as early as 1849 Lincoln had introduced a bill in Congress for the gradual emancipation of slaves in the District of Columbia and in the ensuing decade he stated his position on several occasions. The president moved forward with his plan to free the slaves despite opposition from the slave holding states.

“Another of Lincoln’s recommendations, which became law in April 1862, provided for the emancipation of slaves in the District of Columbia. There would be compensation, of course, but not exceeding $300 for each slave.” Daniel Alexander Payne, the first African-American college president in America, met with President Lincoln and encouraged him to sign the law.

Over 3,000 African American slaves were freed in the District of Columbia in April of 1862, according to African American Slavery scholar, Dr. Walter Hill. His work at the National Archives enabled African American scholars to research their slave ancestors by using the 1920 census which included the names of relatives born prior to 1862.

On January 4, 2005, Mayor Anthony Williams signed the law which made Emancipation Day an official holiday in the District of Columbia. Mayor Vincent Gray marched in the Emancipation Day Parade in 2013. Gray encouraged District of Columbia residents to come out to the parade and increased the police protection after the tragic bombing in Boston.

On April 16, 2005, District of Columbia Emancipation Day was observed for the first time as a legal public holiday for the purpose of pay and leave of employees scheduled to work on that day. 2014 marks the 9th year of the official District of Columbia holiday to remember two centuries of African-American slavery.

The Emancipation Day Parade will begin at 11 a.m. The event is a great celebration of freedom.

"No man is free who is not master of himself," -Epictetus

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