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6/11/2013
Oprah Winfrey Donates $12 Million to NMAAHC
The gift, combined with a previous donation of $1 million from Winfrey, is the largest donation to the museum to date.

4/26/2013
Lonnie Bunch on the Film "42"
NMAAHC Director Lonnie Bunch reflects on the new film "42" about baseball player Jackie Robinson.

3/14/2013
Ambassadors: A Night in New York
On a recent Friday night in New York City, young professionals gathered to learn about and support NMAAHC.

2/1/2013
Anthony Burns and the Falmouth Union Church
Anthony Burns' journey along the Underground Railroad carried him out of slavery, back into it under Federal law, and then out of it again for good.

7/20/2012
Reflections on Swimming Pools and Segregation
Staff member John W. Franklin shares his personal story about encountering racism.

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Civil War Washington, DC: Looking for Emancipation in the Shadow of Liberty

Written by Jen J., Museum Educator

4/6/12

April marks the sesquicentennial of the passage of the District of Columbia Compensated Emancipation Act. Abraham Lincoln passed the law on April 16, 1862 nine months before he issued the Emancipation Proclamation. The Act freed 3,100 slaves in the District of Columbia and represents the federal government’s first attempt to free individuals enslaved in the United States.

Many Americans are unfamiliar with the Capital’s long history of slavery and quests for emancipation. Most envision Washington, DC as the seat American democracy and the spiritual embodiment of the Nation’s founding ideals of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Yet, as historian John Hope Franklin stated, for almost a century Washington, DC was "the very seat and center of the slave trade."

Since the federal district’s creation in 1790, slavery and the slave trade flourished in the Capital. The city’s geographic location along the Potomac River made the sale and shipment of slaves relatively easy and extremely profitable. As a result, pens for holding the enslaved were common sights throughout the district and were visible from the Capitol and the White House. In addition, slaves were commonly seen working on docks and in hotels, homes, and restaurants.

The Compensated Emancipation Act ended this firmly rooted system of slavery in Washington, DC. The Act would ultimately affect the Civil War, alter Washington, D.C. society, and influence abolitionists’ quests for freedom throughout the United States. The Act’s success demonstrated that emancipation was something that could become a reality.

On April 14, 2012, NMAAHC will host the FREE educator workshop, Civil War Washington, DC: Looking for Emancipation in the Shadow of Liberty. It will be held from 9:00 am to 3:30 pm and investigate slavery in Washington, DC, its impact on the Civil War, and the struggle for emancipation. Participants will spend a day with scholars Mary Kay Ricks (author of Escape on The Pearl) and Kate Masur (author of An Example for All the Land: Emancipation and the Struggle Over Equality in Washington, D.C.) discussing the principles and challenges of emancipation and the war’s impact on the nation’s capital. Participants will also visit three sites related to the history of slavery in DC and Virginia.

To register, send your name, email, and mailing address and contact phone number to NMAAHCeducation@si.edu. The event is free but seats are limited.


A view of the Lincoln Memorial.