The U.S. Paid $1 Million to Free Slaves

Compensation means getting paid. Emancipation means getting freed. For 3,185 slaves in Washington, D. C. in 1862 the Compensated Emancipation Act meant that slave owners got paid by the U. S. government to set them free. This Act was signed into law by Abraham Lincoln on April 16, 1862 and changed on July 12 of the same year. The U. S. government set aside 1 million dollars to pay slave owners to free their slaves. In some cases the former slaves were paid too.

The Compensated Emancipation Act of 1862 also set aside 100 thousand dollars to pay slaves in D. C. to colonize outside of the United States after they were freed. To colonize means to go to live in another country. They had to leave the United States to get the money.

In Washington, D. C. April 16 has been celebrated as Emancipation Day since 1866. A parade was held every year to celebrate this day until 1901 when it stopped. It started again over one hundred years later in 2002. In 2000 the Council of the District of Columbia (D. C.) made April 16 a private holiday in Washington, D. C. It was a holiday but city employees did not get a day off. In 2005 Emancipation Day in D. C. became an official city holiday. That means no work for city and federal employees in Washington, D. C. on April 16.

There are many twists and turns to the Compensated Emancipation Act. Its celebration in the District of Columbia has real meaning for every taxpayer in the country. According to the rules of the holiday when April 16 is on a Saturday the holiday is celebrated on the Friday before the 16th. When that Friday is tax day (April 15) the Internal Revenue Service (the IRS) is closed. That’s why taxes are due on April 18 this year.

So as you celebrate Emancipation Day remember that our everyday lives are affected by our history in more ways than we can ever imagine. The U. S. paid some slave owners to free their slaves in Washington, D. C. over 100 years ago. Like unpaid labor it still affects the whole nation today.

At we want to commemorate and honor those Americans of African Americans descent whose contributions helped to make it the richest and most powerful country in the world. Come back to learn more.