Press/Journalists
Press Release
June 22, 2001
Supplement to the DC Emancipation Act Now Available Online from the National Archives

Washington, DC. . . The National Archives and Records Administration announces new digital images of the Supplemental Act to the DC Emancipation Act on its web site. The URL is www.archives.gov/exhibit-hall/featured_documents/dc_emancipation_act/index.html.

On April 16, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln signed a bill ending slavery in the District of Columbia. Passage of this act came 9 months before President Lincoln issued his Emancipation Proclamation. The act brought to conclusion decades of agitation aimed at ending what antislavery advocates called "the national shame" of slavery in the nation's capital.

The law provided for immediate emancipation, 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.

On July 12, 1862, Congress passed a supplemental bill to the original DC Emancipation Act allowing slaves whose masters had not filed for compensation to do so.

An important factor in deciding claims under this Act was that the testimony of both blacks and whites was accepted. Now, if an owner challenged a slave who petitioned for freedom, the testimony from both was given equal weight, a sharp departure from the previous legal practice in which slaves or freed blacks could not testify against whites.

For additional PRESS information, please contact the National Archives Public Affairs staff at (301) 837-1700 or by e-mail.

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