Emancipation in the District of Columbia
by Donna M. Wells
April 16th marks the 138th anniversary of the emancipation in Washington, D.C. On that day in 1862, nine months before he issued the Emancipation Act, President Abraham Lincoln signed the bill which ended slavery in Washington. The District of Columbia Emancipation Act provided for the immediate emancipation of approximately 3,100 slaves, compensation of up to $300 for each slave to loyal Unionist masters, voluntary colonization of former slaves to colonies outside the United States, and payments of up to $100 to each person choosing emigration. Washington, D.C. is the only example of compensated emancipation in the United States. Below is a hand-colored drawing of the emancipation celebration in Washington on April 19, 1866 from Harpers Weekly. To view the accompanying text in Harpers Weekly, click here.
Celebration of the
Abolition of Slavery in the District of Columbia by the Colored People, in Washington,
April 19, 1862,