150 years ago today President Abraham Lincoln helped the United States take a pivotal step towards establishing equality among all persons.
On April 16, 1862 President Lincoln signed the D.C. Emancipation Act in the District of Columbia, according to FindLaw.
This Act was a precursor to the federally enacted Emancipation Proclamation, which was signed into law 9 months later.
The law called for:
- Immediate emancipation of saves,
- Compensation of up to $300 for each slave to "loyal Unionist" masters,
- Voluntary colonization of former slaves to colonies outside the United States, and
- Payments of up to $100 to each person choosing emigration.
The act freed 3,100 slaves in the District of Columbia, and marked the nation's first to rid itself of the institution of slavery.
The importance of DC Emancipation Act cannot be discounted, as it helped to pave the way for equal rights amongst all citizens today through such vehicles as the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment, enacted shortly after the Union defeated the Confederacy in the Civil War.
In 2005, DC Emancipation Day was made an official public holiday, during which educational and commemorative activities are staged in order to celebrate a landmark day in our nation's history.
Today is a day not only to remember this trailblazing act, but also to remember those, such as Lincoln, who lost their lives in the name of freedom and equality.
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