April 16th is Emancipation Day in Washington, DC. The National Archives (as the depository of our national permanent records) holds the original act passed by Congress and signed by Abraham Lincoln that granted slaves in the nation’s capital freedom eight months before the more well-known Emancipation Proclamation was issued in 1863. The Act has been transcribed here.
Senator Charles Sumner (MA) did not fully support the Act because it endorsed compensated emancipation. Sumner felt that if the government allowed slave owners to be monetarily compensated for freed slaves, it would further the notion of enslaved persons as property and not human individuals. After the DC Emancipation Act was passed, Sumner continued his efforts in trying to secure civil rights for African Americans, mainly by chipping away at repressive Black Codes.