Full Slate of Activities Mark Emancipation

Barrington M. Salmon | 4/18/2012, 1:42 p.m.

District resident Hamilton Weathers counted among the thousands of District residents who participated in or watched a potpourri of activities to mark the D.C. Emancipation's 150th Day

District Celebrates 150th Anniversary


The annual celebration commemorates the date enslaved Africans in America received their freedom in the District. Activities included seminars and guest speakers, parades and assemblies at several federal monuments that hold special meaning for African Americans.

The raft of weeklong events gave residents like Weathers, and visitors to the nation's capital, a chance to reflect on the act itself, the man who signed the document - President Abraham Lincoln - and the profound implications for blacks in this country.

Weathers delighted in the late morning Pennsylvania Avenue parade held on Monday, April 16. Participants in the parade wore period garb, units of drums and fifes marched in military precision, while members of fire departments from D.C., Maryland and Virginia drove by in their trucks. Marching bands from elementary through high school added a musical mix to the affair.

"I came out today not to just enjoy the events but to celebrate blacks as a nation being free," said Weathers, 40, a photographer with Angel Wings Studios. "Actually, this would be about my third event. My first time was when I was a youngster, when I was back in junior high school, once in high school and [this time]."

D.C. Council member Vincent Orange (D-At-Large) said this year's celebration would be different from the past, which largely consisted of speeches, marches and events that focused on the District's history.

One of the highlights this year was the "March through the Monuments," whose opening ceremony, took place on Wednesday, April 11. Speakers offered remarks at the Lincoln, Jefferson, Roosevelt and Martin Luther King, Jr., memorials.

"In many respects, the 'March through the Monuments' chronicles the American experience," Orange, 54, explained at the monument of the president who brought the historic event to fruition. "Our nation has evolved from an economy based on the slave trade, to the emancipation of those enslaved, to the current state of our quest for civil and human rights. However, the struggle in making civil and human rights a reality for everyone remains as valid now as it was in 1862."

Orange, 54, the chief sponsor of legislation designating April 16 as D.C. Emancipation Day, was joined by political, civic, social and labor leaders at the Abraham Lincoln Memorial on the National Mall.

Orange's spirits remained high despite grey skies, a sharp breeze and intermittent rain.

"A little rain won't hurt anybody," he said, smiling at the dozens of people assembled to observe the first ceremony of the "March through the Monuments" portion of the celebration.

This year's program featured concerts by Chuck Brown and Raheem DeVaughn; essay, oratorical, and poster contests and a "Great Debate" at the Lincoln Theatre in Northwest that featured the Rev. Al Sharpton, D.C. educator, economist and commentator Julianne Malveaux, Georgetown University scholar and commentator Michael Eric Dyson. The former debated the Rev. Joseph Watkins in a lively exchange that was moderated by local journalist T.J. Holmes.