DC Emancipation Act Photo Op
Press Release · Monday, March 27, 2000

Washington, DC


  • An opportunity to photograph the DC Emancipation Act of April 16, 1862, the public law that ended slavery in the District of Columbia and to interview an expert on the subject. To celebrate the anniversary of the DC Emancipation Act, the first and last pages of the document, signed by President Lincoln, will be on display in the National Archives Rotunda from April 10 through April 20, 2000. The exhibit is free and open to the public.

    The passage of this act came five months before President Abraham Lincoln issued his preliminary Emancipation Proclamation and stands as the only example of compensated emancipation in the United States.


  • Assistant Archivist Michael J. Kurtz, who is an expert on the DC Emancipation Act, will make remarks and be available for interviews.


  • The National Archives Rotunda Please use the Pennsylvania Avenue entrance, between 7th and 9th Streets, NW.


  • 8:30 AM - 9:30 AM Monday, April 10, 2000

PHOTOGRAPHERS NOTE: Available light only.


  • The DC Emancipation Act brought to conclusion decades of agitation aimed at ending what antislavery advocates called "the national shame" of slavery in the nation's capital. The law provided for immediate emancipation, compensation to loyal Unionist masters of up to $300 for each freed slave, voluntary colonization of former slaves to colonies outside the United States, and payments of up to $100 to each person choosing emigration. Over the next nine months, the Federal government granted almost $1 million for the freedom of approximately 3,100 former slaves.

    Though the District of Columbia Emancipation Act's three-way approach of immediate emancipation, compensation, and colonization did not serve as a model for the future, it was an early signal of slavery's death. Emancipation was greeted with great jubilation by the District's African-American community. For many years afterward, Washingtonians celebrated Emancipation Day on April 16 with parades and festivals.

The National Archives Rotunda which is open to the public 10 AM to 9 PM daily, is located on Constitution Avenue, between 7th and 9th Streets, NW.

For additional PRESS information, please contact the National Archives Public Affairs staff at (301) 837-1700 or by e-mail.


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