Celebration of the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia by the colored people in Washington, April 19, 1866,” From Harper’s Weekly, May 12, 1866, p. 300 Photomural from woodcut Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (62).
President Abraham Lincoln‘s Emancipation Proclamation didn’t become national law until January 1, 1863, which gave millions of slaves their freedom. Before that historic event, the President signed an act abolishing slavery in the Nation’s Capital on this day in 1862. In Washington, D.C., Emancipation Day has been an official public holiday since 2005.
In 1861 at the start of the Civil War, President Lincoln began speaking out against the issue of slavery, which he saw as morally wrong, although some historians state he saw the supposed necessity of the practice. It was then presented in 1862 to President Lincoln by Congressman Thaddeus Stevens that the Union could win the war against the rebel nation by outlawing their slave-based economy, and a law was passed in March of 1862 that forbade Union soldiers from returning fugitive slaves to their southern owners.
The federal government sweetened the pot by saying it would pay slave owners for freeing their slaves. This helped spur the developments that would happen within Washington’s borders.
On April 16th, the law President Lincoln signed freed 2,989 slaves according to historical records and the owners were effectively compensated. Five months later, President Lincoln would present the preliminary version of his Emancipation Proclamation before passing at the top of the following year.
The proclamation didn’t free a huge number of slaves that were still trapped behind enemy lines, and the rebel forces held firm to their rights to own slaves despite a series of losses dealt by President Lincoln’s Union Army. The proclamation did, however, bolster Union forces because freed slaves were allowed to join their ranks finally.
Because of the contributions of the freed slaves, it gave the Union Army the extra manpower needed to win the Civil War.