The history of slavery spans across cultures, religions, and nationalities and from ancient times to the present day. However, the economic, social, and legal positions on slavery have changed substantially over the past years.
Slavery in the US dates back to 1508, and since then, it has been a major social hurdle. Several events in history have played a role in the demolition of slavery in the US. April 16, 1862, observed as Emancipation Day, is one of them.
Let’s talk about the history of Emancipation and how it’s celebrated worldwide.
What Is Emancipation Day?
Emancipation Day, annually held on April 16, marks the anniversary of the signing of the Compensated Emancipation Act by Abraham Lincoln on April 16, 1862. The day is observed as a holiday in Washington DC and the District of Columbia in South Carolina.
In addition to various areas in the US, many former European colonies in the Caribbean observe Emancipation Day. These include Trinidad and Tobago, Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, Jamaica, and other Caribbean countries.
Background and History
April 16, 1862, was one of the prominent events that led to the demolition of slavery. Till 1865, former slavery was legal, especially in the area that comprises the modern-day United States. Most slaves were of African origin, whereas most slave owners were of European descent.
On April 16, 1862, Abraham Lincoln, who was the president of the US, freed over 3,000 slaves from slavery in the District of Columbia. Though it wasn’t the end of slavery in the US, it was a significant first step. Slavery continued to remain common in the US until it officially ended after the American Civil War, which lasted till 1865.
On January 31, 1865, the Thirteenth Amendment to the US Constitution formally ended slavery in the country. However, racial divisions have continued to have implications for individuals as well as the American society as a whole.
Public Life on Emancipation Day
As discussed, the day is a legal holiday in Washington DC. Local offices are closed, along with numerous public services. However, most commercial activities, including businesses, stores, and shops, continue to operate normally. There are no changes in public transit and transportation services.
There are talks to observe Emancipation Day as the extended deadline for filing an income tax return. In 2007, the income tax filing deadline was extended from April 16 to April 17 to observe the Emancipation Day.
Apart from Washington DC and the District of Columbia, Emancipation Day is a normal day in the rest of the US with no effect on public life. However, the Emancipation of slaves is celebrated in different parts of the US and other countries on varying dates. It’s observed on May 20 in Florida, March 22 in Puerto Rico, and June 19 in Texas.
The world has come a long way since the advent of legal slavery, which dates back to 3500 BC. Emancipation Day was a major event in the history of slavery in the US, and therefore, it’s observed as a legal holiday in Washington DC and the District of Columbia.