On April 16, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln signed legislation for the compensated emancipation of enslaved people living in the District of Columbia. On this 150th anniversary, the District of Columbia Emancipation Act will be celebrated between April 14 and 16 with a variety of events including a panel of Lincoln scholars speaking at the Lincoln Cottage, a parade and fireworks display in downtown Washington and a city-wide scavenger hunt.
Unlike the Emancipation Proclamation issued eight and a half months later, the D.C. legislation allowed for payments up to $300 per slave to owners living in the Capitol or $100 to slaves who chose to leave the country. Records show 930 petitions from owners were accepted by local authorities in full or in part and 2,989 slaves gained their freedom.
The free outdoor program at President Lincoln’s Cottage, a national monument on the grounds of the Armed Forces Retirement Home, is scheduled for April 15 from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. This was Lincoln’s summer White House. Speakers at the event include nationally recognized Lincoln experts, Harold Holzer, Frank Williams and Edna Greene Medford. They will discuss Lincoln’s role in the emancipation act, press reaction to the event and the role played by District citizens.
The parade on April 16 begins at 11 a.m. and will follow Pennsylvania Avenue, from 3rd St. NW to Freedom Plaza at 13th St. NW. The park, often used for festivals, has an inlaid stone map of the city’s original design. A street festival and fireworks will take place on the same day at the plaza between 11 a.m. and 9 p.m.
The competitive, mobile scavenger hunt on April 16 will cover 11 sites in the city and the 30 teams or individuals with the highest score by the end of the day will receive gift bags. The app is available beginning April 13 at www.scvngr.com.