Credit: Library of Congress
On this day, April 16 in 1862, more than eight months before he issued the Emancipation Proclamation, President Abraham Lincoln freed more than 3,000 enslaved people with the stroke of his pen.
To all of our friends in the District of Columbia: Happy Emancipation Day!
The new law enacted that “all persons held to service or labor within the District of Columbia, by reason of African descent, are hereby discharged and freed of and from all claim to such service or labor; and from and after the passage of this act neither slavery neither slavery nor involuntary servitude . . . shall hereafter exist in said District.”
The president remarked to a celebratory crowd a few days later, “let me mingle with you in celebration of the day which commenced your freedom. I do it in sincerity and truth, and trust in God the blessings which have been conferred may be enjoyed and appreciated by you, and that you may give them a proper direction.”