In a not-too-well-known wrinkle of history, Lincoln freed the approximately 3,000 slaves then living in the District of Columbia on April 16, 1862, nine months before the country-wide emancipation of enslaved peoples. In honor of that date, Washington, D.C., celebrates Emancipation Day today.
In D.C., Emancipation Day was a public holiday marked annually from 1866 to 1901 before fading away. It’s been revamped in the past four years, though D.C. Mayor Fenty has recently considered scrapping the local holiday to save the city some much-needed money.
This year, a series of education and commemorative activities have been planned, ranging from ongoing art exhibits on African American celebrations and culture, to rallies and marches supporting D.C. statehood, to a living history discussion with an actor portraying Lincoln as he discusses his views on slavery, colonization, and emancipation, put on by the Historical Society of Washington. Some events and church services continue into the weekend and beyond. If you can, be sure to catch the discussion by Howard University professor Dr. Mark Mack about how ground penetrating radar is being used to detect the unmarked African American graves which were discovered what is now Walter Pierce Park in the Adams Morgan neighborhood. The session takes place in the park at 2 p.m. on April 25.
Does your city have any celebrations of its very own? Unique to its history and culture?
Photo: via D.C. Mayor’s office, by Lateef Mangum