Emancipation Day May No Longer Be a Free Day for Workers

Washington, D.C., is among the few places that celebrate an official Emancipation Day and the only place that celebrates it annually on April 16 as a public holiday.

However, concerns about the District’s deficit may change the latter. “For the 2010 budget, Mayor Fenty is proposing that Emancipation day no longer be a paid day-off for District employees; In some ways, it is to help close the $800 billion deficit,” said Leslie Kershaw, communications specialist for the Mayor’s Office. “However, there would still be celebration and events.”

According to the proposed budget, Emancipation Day will be a “private holiday,” for which a day off may be granted.

Emancipation Day was celebrated unofficially since 1866 before Mayor Anthony Williams signed the District of Columbia Emancipation Day Amendment Act of 2004, making it an official public holiday.

April 16, 1862, marks the day that Abraham Lincoln signed the District of Columbia Compensated Emancipation Act, nine months before the Emancipation Proclamation. The act freed more than 3,000 slaves and ended slavery in the District.

Residents who look forward to the paid day off, may disagree with the change, however some residents would welcome it.

“It’s important to celebrate Emancipation Day, but a paid holiday is not necessary to preserve the memory,” said Nicole Bailey, a Ward 4 resident. “I will be inconvenienced because my son’s daycare, Loving Care Daycare, is closed on Emancipation Day and I still have to report to class.”

In the past, the District has celebrated the holiday with a parade, public events, political demonstrations, such as the Voting Rights Act March in 2007, and musical concerts.

This year, The Office of the Secretary will celebrate with a performance by Sweet Honey in the Rock at the Lincoln Memorial Rededication concert on April 12 and host of ongoing celebrations.