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District Of Columbia Emancipation Day

Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin

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When Congress returns to session on Monday, April 16, 2012, we will recognize an important anniversary and holiday here in Washington. That day will be the 150th anniversary of District of Columbia Emancipation Day. Nine months before President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation in January 1862, the President signed the District of Columbia Compensated Emancipation Act. The act ordered the release of the 3,100 enslaved persons of African descent held in the Nation's capital. District of Columbia residents were therefore known as the ``First Freed'' slaves by the Federal government during the Civil War.

In 1865 the Confederacy surrendered and the Civil War ended, and later that year the 13th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified, which states that: ``Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.''

Emancipation Day celebrations were held annually in the District of Columbia from 1866 through 1901, and resumed in 2002. In 2005 Emancipation Day was made an official public holiday in the District of Columbia.

On March 6, 2012, the District of Columbia City Council adopted ceremonial resolution 19 207. The resolution finds this anniversary to be ``an important, historic occasion for the District of Columbia and the nation and serves as an appropriate time to reflect on how far the District of Columbia and the United States have progressed since institutionalized enslavement of people of African descent. Most importantly, the 150th anniversary reminds us to reaffirm our commitment to forge a more just and united country that truly reflects the ideas of its founders and instills in its people a broad sense of duty to be responsible and conscientious stewards of freedom and democracy.'' I ask unanimous consent to place a copy of this resolution in the Record at the end of my statement.

(See exhibit 1.)

In the recent past, we have been blessed to celebrate numerous historic achievements for African-Americans in Washington, DC and throughout the Nation, including the election of the first African-American President of the United States, the dedication of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, and the groundbreaking for the National Museum of African American History and Culture. I congratulate the District of Columbia government and its residents on this historic anniversary.

A CEREMONIAL RESOLUTION: 19 207--IN THE COUNCIL OF THE DISTRICT OF

To recognize and preserve the cultural history and heritage of the District of Columbia; to formally recognize the 150th anniversary of District of Columbia Emancipation Day on April 16, 2012, as an important day in the history of the District of Columbia and the United States in that, on April 16, 1862, 9 months before President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863 to begin to end institutionalized slavery in America, President Lincoln signed the District of Columbia Compensated Emancipation Act to release the 3,100 enslaved persons of African descent held in the nation's capital, making them the ``first freed'' by the federal government, at a cost of nearly $1 million, in 1862 funds, paid to the people who enslaved them; to recognize that, after the Civil War, formerly enslaved people and others commemorated the signing of the 1862 act by parading down Pennsylvania Avenue in festive attire, with music and marching bands, proclaiming and celebrating freedom in the District of Columbia Emancipation Day Parade, which was received by every sitting President of the United States from 1866 to 1901; and to recognize that, on March 7, 2000, the Council of the District of Columbia voted unanimously to establish April 16th as a legal private holiday, the Emancipation Day Parade resumed in the nation's capital in 2002, and, on April 5, 2005, District of Columbia Emancipation Day was made a legal public holiday, recognized annually on April 16th. Whereas, on April 16, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln signed the District of Columbia Compensated Emancipation Act (``Emancipation Act'') during the Civil War; Whereas, the Emancipation Act provided for immediate emancipation of 3,100 enslaved men, women, and children of African descent held in bondage in the District of Columbia; Whereas, the Emancipation Act authorized compensation of up to $300 for each of the 3,100 enslaved men, women, and children held in bondage by those loyal to the Union, voluntary colonization of the formerly enslaved to colonies outside of America, and payments of up to $100 to each formerly enslaved person who agreed to leave America; Whereas, the Emancipation Act authorized the federal government to pay approximately $1 million, in 1862 funds, for the freedom of 3,100 enslaved men, women, and children of African descent in the District of Columbia; Whereas, the Emancipation Act ended the bondage of 3,100 enslaved men, women, and children of African descent in the District of Columbia, and made them the ``first freed'' by the federal government during the Civil War; Whereas, nine months after the signing of the Emancipation Act, on January 1, 1863, President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863, to begin to end institutionalized enslavement of people of African descent in Confederate states; Whereas, on April 9, 1865, the Confederacy surrendered, marking the beginning of the end of the Civil War, and on August 20, 1866, President Andrew Johnson signed a Proclamation--Declaring that Peace, Order, Tranquility and Civil Authority Now Exists in and Throughout the Whole of the United States of America; Whereas, in December 1865, the 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution was ratified establishing that `` Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction''; Whereas, in April 1866, to commemorate the signing of the Emancipation Act, the formerly enslaved people and others, in festive attire, with music and marching bands, started an annual tradition of parading down Pennsylvania Avenue, proclaiming and celebrating the anniversary of their freedom; Whereas, the District of Columbia Emancipation Day Parade was received by every sitting President of the United States from 1866 to 1901; Whereas, on March 7, 2000, at the Twenty Seventh Legislative Session of the Council of the District of Columbia, Councilmember Vincent B. Orange, Sr. (D-Ward 5) authored and introduced, with Carol Schwartz (R-At Large), the historic District of Columbia Emancipation Day Amendment Act of 2000, effective April 3, 2001 (D.C. Law 13 237; D.C. Official Code Sec. Sec. 1 612.02a, 32 1201), and on that same date moved an emergency version of the legislation that established April 16th as a legal private holiday; Whereas, the District of Columbia Emancipation Day Emergency Amendment Act of 2000, which established April 16th as a legal private holiday, was passed unanimously by the Council on March 7, 2000, and signed into law on March 22, 2000 by Mayor Anthony A. Williams; Whereas, on April 16, 2000, to properly preserve the historical and cultural significance of the District of Columbia Emancipation Day, Councilmember Orange hosted a celebration program in the historic 15th Street Presbyterian Church, founded in 1841 as the First Colored Presbyterian Church; Whereas, on April 16, 2002, after a 100-year absence, the District of Columbia, spearheaded by Councilmember Orange with the support of Mayor Anthony Williams, returned the Emancipation Day Parade to Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., along with public activities on Freedom Plaza and evening fireworks (D.C. Official Code Sec. 1 182); Whereas, the District of Columbia Emancipation Day Parade and Fund Act of 2004, effective March 17, 2005 (D.C. Law 15 240; D.C. Official Code Sec. 1 181 et seq.), established the Emancipation Day Fund to receive and disburse monies for the Emancipation Day Parade and activities associated with the celebration and commemoration of the District of Columbia Emancipation Day; Whereas, the District of Columbia Emancipation Day Amendment Act of 2004, effective April 5, 2005 (D.C. Law 15 288; D.C. Official Code Sec. 1 612.02(a)(11)), established April 16th as a legal public holiday; Whereas, on April 16, 2005, District of Columbia Emancipation Day was observed for the first time as a legal public holiday, for the purpose of pay and leave of employees scheduled to work on that day (D.C. Official Code Sec. 1 612.02(c)(2)); Whereas, April 16, 2012, is the 150th anniversary of District of Columbia Emancipation Day, which symbolizes the triumph of people of African descent over the cruelty of institutionalized slavery and the goodwill of people opposed to the injustice of slavery in a democracy; Whereas, the Council of the District of Columbia remembers and pays homage to the millions of people of African descent enslaved for more than 2 centuries in America for their courage and determination; Whereas, the Council of the District of Columbia remembers and pays homage to President Abraham Lincoln for his courage and determination to begin to end the inhumanity and injustice of institutionalized slavery by signing the District of Columbia Compensated Emancipation Act on April