Emancipation Day is a holiday in Washington DC to mark the anniversary of the signing of the Compensated Emancipation Act, which president Abraham Lincoln signed on April 16, 1862. It is annually held on April 16.
What Do People Do?
A wide range of events are arranged in Washington DC to mark Emancipation Day. These are spread throughout the month of April and include exhibitions, public discussions, presentations of historic documents, the laying of wreaths, concerts and poetry readings. The events aim to educate a broad spectrum of people about the history of the municipality of the District of Columbia in general and slavery in particular. Attention is also paid to the African origin of many slaves and racial issues in modern American society.
April 16 is a legal holiday in Washington DC. Local government offices are closed and many public services do not operate. However, many stores and businesses are open and there are no changes to public transit services. In some years, Emancipation Day may be the reason to extend the deadline for filing an income tax return (Tax Day). In 2007, the observance Emancipation Day in Washington DC had the effect of nationally extending the 2006 income tax filing deadline from April 16 to April 17. This 2007 date change was not discovered until after many forms went to print.
In all other areas of the United States, April 16 is a normal day and public life is not affected.
Formal slavery was legal until 1865 in most of the area that is now the United States. Many slaves were of African origin and many slave owners were of European descent, although some other groups also had slaves. By 1860, there were about four million slaves in the United States. On April 16, 1862, Abraham Lincoln, who was the US president at the time, signed the Compensated Emancipation Act, which freed more than 3000 slaves in the District of Columbia. However, slavery did not officially end in the rest of the United States until after the American Civil War, which lasted from 1861 until 1865.
The Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution formally ended slavery in the US. It was proposed on January 31, 1865, and ratified by 30 of the then 36 states in the same year. However, it was only ratified in Mississippi in 1995. Slavery and the racial divisions, upon which it was based, have had and continue to have huge implications for individuals and American society as a whole.
Emancipation Day in Washington DC marks the anniversary of the signing of the Compensated Emancipation Act. On January 4, 2005, legislation was signed to make Emancipation Day an official public holiday in the District of Columbia. Elsewhere in the United States, the emancipation of slaves is celebrated in Florida (May 20), Puerto Rico (March 22) and Texas (June 19). There are also similar events in many countries in the Caribbean, including Anguilla, Bahamas, Bermuda, Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago and the Turks and Caicos Islands. Many of these events occur during the first week of August as slavery was abolished in the British Empire on August 1, 1834.
0069 – Otho committed suicide after being defeated by Vitellius’ troops at Bedriacum.
0556 – Pelagius I began his reign as Catholic Pope.
1065 – The Norman Robert Guiscard took Bari. Five centuries of Byzantine rule in southern Italy ended.
1175 – Frederick I, Holy Roman Emperor, signed the Treaty of Montebello with the Lombard League.
1705 – Queen Anne of England knighted Isaac Newton.
1746 – The Duke of Cumberland defeated Bonnie Prince Charlie (and his Jacobites) at the battle of Culloden.
1818 – The U.S. Senate ratified Rush-Bagot amendment to form an unarmed U.S.-Canada border.
1851 – A lighthouse was swept away in a gale at Minot’s Ledge, MA.
1854 – San Salvador was destroyed by an earthquake.
1862 – Confederate President Jefferson Davis approved conscription act for white males between 18 and 35.
1862 – In the U.S., slavery was abolished by law in the District of Columbia.
1883 – Paul Kruger became president of the South African Republic.
1900 – The first book of postage stamps was issued. The two-cent stamps were available in books of 12, 24 and 48 stamps.
1905 – Andrew Carnegie donated $10,000,000 of personal money to set up the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.
1912 – Harriet Quimby became the first woman to fly across the English Channel.
1917 – Vladimir Ilyich Lenin returned to Russia to start Bolshevik Revolution after years of exile.
1922 – Annie Oakley shot 100 clay targets in a row, to set a women’s record.
1922 – The Soviet Union and Germany signed the Treaty of Rapallo under which Germany recognized the Soviet Union and diplomatic and trade relations were restored.
1935 – “Fibber McGee and Molly” premiered.
1940 – The first no-hit, no-run game to be thrown on an opening day of the major league baseball season was earned by Bob Feller. The Cleveland Indians beat the Chicago White Sox 1-0.
1942 – The Island of Malta was awarded the George Cross in recognition for heroism under constant German air attack.
1943 – In Basel, Switzerland, chemist Albert Hoffman accidently discovered the the hallucinogenic effects of LSD-25 while working on the medicinal value of lysergic acid.
1944 – The destroyer USS Laffey survived immense damage from attacks by 22 Japanese aircraft off Okinawa.
1945 – American troops entered Nuremberg, Germany.
1947 – The Zoomar lens, invented by Dr. Frank Back, was demonstrated in New York City. It was the first lens to exhibit zooming effects.
1947 – In Texas City, TX, the French ship Grandcamp, carrying ammonium nitrate fertilizer, caught fire and blew up. The explosions and resulting fires killed 576 people.
1948 – In Paris, the Organization for European Economic Co-operation was set up.
1951 – 75 people were killed when the British submarine Affray sank in the English Channel.
1953 – The British royal yacht Britannia was launched.
1962 – Walter Cronkite began anchoring “The CBS Evening News”.
1967 – At the Western Open in El Monte, CA, Ken Barnes Jr. became the first skeet shooter to break a perfect 400 x 400 in all four guns (.410, 28, 20, and 12 gauges). He is also the only shooter to do this with pump action guns.
1968 – The Pentagon announced that troops would begin coming home from Vietnam.
1968 – Major league baseball’s longest night game was played when the Houston Astros defeated the New York Mets 1-0. The 24 innings took six hours, six minutes to play.
1972 – Apollo 16 blasted off on a voyage to the moon. It was the fifth manned moon landing.
1972 – Two giants pandas arrived in the U.S. from China.
1975 – The Khmer Rouge Rebels won control of Cambodia after a five years of civil war. They renamed the country Kampuchea and began a reign of terror.
1978 – In Orissa, India, 180 people died when a tornado hit.
1982 – Queen Elizabeth proclaimed Canada’s new constitution in effect. The act severed the last colonial links with Britain.
1983 – China shelled the Vietnam border in retaliation for raids.
1983 – Brazil detained four Libyan planes en route to Nicaragua after finding weapons, explosives and ammunition on the planes.
1985 – Mickey Mantle was reinstated after being banned from baseball for several years.
1987 – The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) sternly warned U.S. radio stations to watch the use of indecent language on the airwaves.
1987 – The U.S. Patent Office began allowing the patenting of new animals created by genetic engineering.
1992 – Italian financier Carlo de Benedetti and 32 others were convicted of fraud in connection with the 1982 collapse of Banco Ambrosiano.
1992 – The House ethics committee listed 303 current and former lawmakers who had overdrawn their House bank accounts.
1995 – The European Union and Canada agreed to protect threatened fish stocks in the north Atlantic.
1996 – Britain’s Prince Andrew and his wife, Sarah, the Duchess of York, announced that they were in the process of getting a divorce.
1996 – An Italian court found former Prime Minister Bettino Craxi guilty on charges of corruption. He was sentenced to eight years and three months in prison.
1999 – Wayne Gretzky announced his retirement from the National Hockey League (NHL).
2002 – The U.S. Supreme Court overturned major parts of a 1996 child pornography law based on rights to free speech.
2007 – In Blacksburg, VA, a student killed 33 people at Virginia Tech before killing himself.