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Tag: district of Columbia

Emancipation Proclamation: Freedom in Washington, DC

Today’s blog post comes from National Archives social media intern Anna Fitzpatrick.

Image: Petition of Margaret C. Barber, 05/21/1862; Record Group 217; National Archives (National Archives Identifier: 4644520)

Nine months before President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, he signed a bill on April 16, 1862, that ended slavery in the District of Columbia. The act finally concluded many years of disagreements over ending ”the national shame” of slavery in the nation’s capital.

The law provided for immediate emancipation, compensation to loyal Unionist masters of up to $300 for each freed slave, voluntary colonization of former slaves to colonies outside the United States, and payments of up to $100 to each person choosing emigration. Although this three-way approach of immediate emancipation, compensation, and colonization did not serve as a model for the future, it pointed toward slavery’s death. Emancipation was greeted with great joy by the District’s African American community.

The white population of DC took advantage of the act’s promise of compensation. One month after the act was issued, Margaret Barber presented a claim to the Board of Commissioners for the Emancipation of Slaves in the District of Columbia, saying that she wanted to be compensated by the Federal Government, which had freed her 34 slaves.

Image: Petition of Margaret C. Barber, 05/21/1862; Record Group 217; National Archives (National Archives Identifier: 4644520)

Margaret Barber estimated … [ Read all ]

A Capital Celebration: The National Archives Commemorates DC Emancipation

An Act of April 16, 1862 (For the Release of Certain Persons Held to Service or Labor in the District of Columbia), 04/16/1862 (ARC ID #299814)

While Union and Confederate forces clashed on southern battlefields in 1862, a historic piece of legislation ended “the national shame” of slavery in the nation’s capital. The District of Columbia Emancipation Act was signed into law by President Abraham Lincoln on April 16, 1862.

The legislation provided for immediate emancipation and monetary compensation to former slave owners. It also stipulated that owners claiming compensation file schedules listing and describing each slave. The Supplemental Act of July 12, 1862 expanded on the first act by permitting the submission of schedules by slaves whose owners did not reside in the District of Columbia.

As a result of the first act, the Board of Commissioners for the Emancipation of Slaves approved 930 petitions from former owners for the freedom of 2,989 former slaves. The supplemental act resulted in another 161 petitions from individuals, including many former slaves who were allowed to file because their owners had failed to comply with the first act’s deadline.

In celebration of the 150th anniversary of the DC Emancipation Act, the National Archives has released this short documentary video. The four-minute video is part of the ongoing “Inside the Vaults” series on our YouTube channel.

For more … [ Read all ]

Emancipation for DC

D.C. Emancipation Act, Public Law 37-50, April 16,1862

D.C. Emancipation Act, Public Law 37-50, April 16,1862

Today is Emancipation Day for the District of Columbia. Some of you might immediately wonder if this is related to DC’s current efforts to win representation and a vote, but it is a celebration for a different kind of freedom for the residents of DC.

Eight and a half months before he signed the Emancipation Proclamation, President Lincoln signed a bill ending slavery in the District of Columbia.

Lincoln had struggled with how to resolve the issue of slavery, even encouraging freed slaves to return to Africa. And of course, slavery in the nation’s capital was an even thornier issue—antislavery advocates spoke of “the national shame.”

The bill had some success. Over the next  nine months, the Board of Commissioners appointed to administer the act approved 930 petitions, completely or in part, from former owners for the freedom of 2,989 former slaves.

Although its combination of emancipation, compensation to owners, and colonization did not serve as a model for the future, the District of Columbia Emancipation Act was an early signal of slavery’s death. In the District itself, African Americans greeted emancipation with great jubilation. For many years afterward, Emancipation Day was celebrated with parades and festivals.

The D.C. Emancipation Act is currently at the National Archives Building in Washington, DC. At Archives.gov, you can see a larger [ Read all ]

Your photos, then and now

Last week we asked our readers to share photos that match up with some old images we have in our library. We got two responses that really show just how much things have changed in Washington, DC. See our then and now photos, and share your own on our Facebook page!

Robert A Mosher's photo of the Ford's Theatre, modern day

Robert A Mosher's photo of the Ford's Theatre, modern day.

Ford's Theatre in Lincoln's time. Washington, DC (66-G-22B-1).

Ford’s Theatre in Lincoln’s time. Washington, DC (66-G-22B-1).
lincoln-now

Martha Chapin's photo of the Lincoln Memorial, modern day.

Photographer unknown. Installation of the statue of Abraham Lincoln in the Lincoln Memorial, Washington, DC. 1920. Records of the Office of Public Buildings and Public Parks of the National Capital (42-M-J-1).

Photographer unknown. Installation of the statue of Abraham Lincoln in the Lincoln Memorial, Washington, DC. 1920. Records of the Office of Public Buildings and Public Parks of the National Capital (42-M-J-1).

[ Read all ]