DC Kicks Off Emancipation Day Celebrations

Anjuli Sastry

gty emancipation day mi 130415 wblog DC Kicks Off Emancipation Day Celebrations

UPDATE: Despite the Boston Marathon bombings Monday, Emancipation Day events will continue as planned in the city, according to D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray's office.

In a statement released Monday evening, Gray said he and city officials are monitoring the situation in Boston and taking extra precautions for today's events.

"While at this time there is no information regarding any specific credible threat against targets in our region, we have plans in place to address these types of incidents. We are currently implementing those plans," Gray said in the statement. "While at this point I cannot go into significant detail about specific response actions and deployments, I can say that the District government is well-prepared to protect the safety of all those who live, visit and do business in the nation's capital."

Gray is still scheduled to attend the Emancipation Parade this morning.

The city of Washington today hosts events to commemorate the D.C. Compensated Emancipation Act, which officially abolished slavery in the nation's capital in 1862.

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The act, signed into law by President Abraham Lincoln during the American Civil War, paid D.C. slave owners up to $300 to give up their slaves and ultimately freed more than 3,000 slaves, according to the U.S. Senate website.

The act set a precedent for the Emancipation Proclamation that would come several months later, according to City Councilman Vincent Orange, who is the chair of the event's oversight committee.

"It's the only time in history that the federal government paid $1 million in 1862 to free the slaves," Orange told ABC News. "Clearly, that was part of Lincoln's strategy to win civil war."

This year, the city will be honoring the day through the standard parades and fireworks, and even a battle of local university bands and workshops on the day's history, organized by Orange.

"The District of Columbia celebrates each April 16th as Emancipation Day where we commemorate our nation's hard-fought battle for freedom and equal justice under the law," D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray said in a statement. "In a modern context, Emancipation Day also provides time to reflect on the District's current struggle for budget autonomy and full representation in Congress."

For city employees, the annual holiday also means an official paid holiday.

Emancipation Day was made an unpaid furlough day in 2011 to save the city much needed funds. Almost 22,000 city employees were eventually paid back after the city ended the year on a fiscal surplus, according to the mayor's office.

D.C. school kids also get the day off.

A full guide to the day's events can be found here.