National Archives Commemorates the 150th Anniversary of DC Emancipation Act April 11
Press Release · Wednesday, April 4, 2012

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WHAT: FOR MEDIA ONLY:  To mark the 150th Anniversary of the DC Emancipation Act, the National Archives will share rarely seen original records pertaining to the Act, including petitions from slaves in Washington, DC.


  • Archivist of the United States David S. Ferriero
  • Damani Davis, archivist, National Archives and Records Administration
  • Kenneth Winkle, scholar, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

WHEN: Wednesday, April 11, 2012, 10 AM

WHERE: Please use the Pennsylvania Avenue entrance, between 7th and 9th Streets, NW
Room 105, National Archives Building
700 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC
Metro: Archives-Navy Memorial-Penn Quarter station

PLEASE NOTE:  No Additional Lights Will Be Permitted

Background on the DC Emancipation Act

On April 16, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln signed into law an Act of Congress allowing for the emancipation of enslaved persons in Washington, DC, and the monetary compensation of their owners by the US Treasury. This first case of emancipation predated by eight months Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, which freed slaves in rebel states. Emancipation of all enslaved persons throughout the United States did not occur until passage of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution in 1865.

150 years later the National Archives marks the anniversary with a new video short, “DC Emancipation Act -- 150 Years” part of the Inside the Vaults series. The four-minute video is part of the ongoing “Inside the Vaults”series and can be viewed on the National Archives YouTube channel:

In the video, archivist Damani Davis discusses the petitions filed by owners and enslaved persons under the Act and the details they reveal about the enslaved African-American community at the time. Archivist Robert Ellis explains how the process worked. And Kenneth Winkle, Sorensen Professor of American History at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, explains how the University’s new website, Civil War Washington ( will make the petitions available to researchers.

The film series is free to view and distribute on the National Archives YouTube channel at These videos are in the public domain and not subject to any copyright restrictions. The National Archives encourages the free distribution of them.

The original act, signed by President Lincoln, is on loan to the Capitol Visitor’s Center through September 9, 2012.

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For press information, contact the National Archives Public Affairs Staff at 202-357-5300.


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