D.C. Celebrates Emancipation Day

WI Web Staff | 4/16/2013, 9 p.m.
The Anacostia High School Marching Band has performed in previous D.C. Emancipation Day parades. (Courtesy photo)

Mayor Vincent Gray said late Monday, that while proceeding today with the celebration of the District's Emancipation Day, he and city officials continue to monitor the situation that took place at the Boston Marathon.

The mayor added that in commemoration of the day on which schools are closed and city employees get time off as a paid holiday, extra precautions are in place to ensure the safety of the city, its residents and visitors.

"The District of Columbia celebrates each April 16 as Emancipation Day where we commemorate our nation's hard-fought battle for freedom and equal justice under the law," Gray said in a statement. "In a modern context, Emancipation Day also provides time to reflect on the District's current struggle for budget autonomy and full representation in Congress."

The D.C. Compensated Emancipation Act, which officially abolished slavery in the nation's capital in 1862, was signed into law by President Abraham Lincoln during the American Civil War, and paid D.C. slave owners up to $300 to give up their slaves and ultimately freed more than 3,000 slaves, according to the U.S. Senate website.

The act set a precedent for the Emancipation Proclamation that would come several months later, according to City Councilman Vincent Orange, who is the chair of the event's oversight committee.

"It's the only time in history that the federal government paid $1 million in 1862 to free the slaves," Orange told ABC News. "Clearly, that was part of Lincoln's strategy to win civil war."

This year, the city will be honoring the day through the standard parades and fireworks, and even a battle of local university bands and workshops on the day's history, organized by Orange.

Emancipation Day was made an unpaid furlough day in 2011 to save the city much needed funds. Almost 22,000 city employees were eventually paid back after the city ended the year on a fiscal surplus, according to the mayor's office.

(Source: ABC News)