The Washington Post

D.C. Emancipation Day’s 150th anniversary is Monday

The D.C. Compensated Emancipation Act, Public Law 37-50, April 16,1862. (U.S. National Archives Records Administration)

Monday is April 16, D.C. Emancipation Day. Schools, libraries and other government offices will be closed in commemoration of the first federal act to free slaves. The Washington Post’s Michael Ruane looked back this week on the 1862 Compensated Emancipation Act that freed 3,100 slaves in the District, paying their owners for loss of “property.”

There are a host of events slated to mark the 150th anniversary, most of them free and open to the public.

Organizers have already held a “march through the monuments” and an anniversary reception and vigil at the African-American Civil War Museum and Memorial.

Tonight (Friday), at the Lincoln Theatre, there will be a jazz and comedy concert featuring the West Virginia State University Jazz Band and famed comedian Dick Gregory.

On Saturday there will be an afternoon program at the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site from 3 to 5 p.m. And at 6 p.m. the Lincoln will host a “great debate” on key matters facing black Americans, featuring the Rev. Al Sharpton and Georgetown University professor Michael Eric Dyson.

The main events come Monday, starting with an 8 a.m. prayer breakfast at the Willard InterContinental Hotel. Confirmed speakers include Sharpton, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, and the Rev. Joel Osteen.

At 11 a.m., a parade will start down Pennsylvania Avenue from the Capitol to the John A. Wilson Building, culminating in a 2 p.m. program at Freedom Plaza. Jackson is the keynote speaker; a concert will follow at 4 p.m., with fireworks at approximately 8:45 p.m.

D.C. Council member Vincent B. Orange (D-At Large), who is leading the preparations, said he’s hoping to get at least 5,000 marchers in the Monday parade. “The weather’s going to be great, 85 degrees,” he noted.

To reserve a seat for the Lincoln Theatre events, e-mail

Here’s a draft program for Monday’s festivities:

Mike DeBonis covers Congress and national politics for The Washington Post. He previously covered D.C. politics and government from 2007 to 2015.


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