On April 16, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Compensated Emancipation Act, granting freedom to 3,100 enslaved persons in the District of Columbia. The act passed nine months before Lincoln’s famous Emancipation Proclamation and granted freedom to enslaved persons in the District of Columbia as the country's first freed from the institution of slavery. In 2005, DC Emancipation Day was made an official public holiday. Each year, educational and commemorative activities are held celebrating the end of slavery in the nation’s capital.
The year 2012 marks the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Act and includes a year-long celebration of educational and cultural events and activities throughout the city.