Emancipation Day commemorates the liberation of slaves of African origin from bondage mostly in the British colonies. The day also upholds the emancipation of any kind of servitude like serfdom etc. In the United States, Emancipation Day is observed annually on April 16 since on this day in the year 1982 the then President of the United States Abraham Lincoln signed the Compensated Emancipation Act that gifted freedom to more than 3000 slaves. Washington DC marks the occasion on this day. Some other parts of USA like Florida, Texas and Puerto Rico observe the day on different dates.


  • Until the year 1865 in most areas of the United Slaves of America, slavery was considered legal. Slaves were mostly people of African origin while the owners of such slaves were mostly people of European descent. Although some other prosperous groups also owned slaves, the majority belonged to the European settlers. By the year 1860, the numbers of slaves in the United States were estimated to be four million.
  • In the year 1862, on the 16th day of the month of April, the then President of the United States Abraham Lincoln signed the Compensated Emancipation Act. This brought about liberation of more than three thousand slaves in the District of Columbia. However, slavery still continued in the other parts of the United States. Slavery and racial discriminations were pretty rampant in the then society of America.
  • After the American Civil War, which lasted from 1861 to 1865, the scenario started to change. The Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution played a key role in the process by formally abolishing slavery in the United States. The proposition was laid on January 31, 1865. The same was ratified in the same year by 30 among the then 36 States of the United States of America. Mississippi ratified the same only in the year 1995.
  • In Washington DC, Emancipation Day observations are held on the anniversary of the signing of the Compensated Emancipation Act on April 16 by Abraham Lincoln in the year 1862. On the 4th of January 2005 this date was made an official State holiday in the District of Columbia by signing a legislation.
  • However, the day is marked on different dates in some other parts of the country. Florida celebrates the day on May 20, Puerto Rico on March 22 while in Texas it is observed on June 19.

Observances in some different parts of USA:

  • Washington DC: In Washington DC the Emancipation Day is celebrated on April 16 to commemorate the signing of the famous Emancipation proclamation by the then President of US Abraham Lincoln in the year 1862. This is the only example where former owners of such slaves were compensated by the federal government. A series of celebrations take place on this day including parades and speeches. Since 2002, the hard work and research of Ms. Loretta Carter-Hanes raised the bars, and the celebrations reached new heights. In 2007, the part of the celebrations of this day included the extension of the tax filing day.
  • Florida: In the State of Florida, an unofficial commemoration of Emancipation Day is held on May 20th each year. This is because on this day on the year 1865 the first reading of the Emancipation Proclamation was held on the steps of the Knott House in a speech given by Major General Edward McCook.
  • Mississippi: In Mississippi the day has been colloquially termed as the "Eight o' May", and as the name suggests the day is annually commemorated on May 8. This was the day when in the year 1865 the African American slaves in eastern Mississippi learnt the fact that they have been freed.
  • Texas: In Texas the day has been colloquially termed as the "Juneteenth", and as the name suggests the day is annually commemorated on June 19 to commemorate the announcement of Abolition of Slavery in the State of Texas. Since the later part of the 20th Century some people have proposed to recognize this day as the National Emancipation Day.
  • Kentucky: Emancipation day in Kentucky is celebrated on August 8th especially in the counties of Paducah and McCracken for according to the records this was the day when the slaves of that region learnt about their freedom.
  • U.S. Virgin Islands: In the U.S. Virgin Islands the official day of commemorating the Emancipation Day is July 3 to mark the anniversary abolition of slavery on this day in the year 1848 by Danish Governor Peter von Scholten.

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