I attended a 150th anniversary ceremony in honor of the DC Emancipation Act. The event was held at Abraham Lincoln’s summer cottage.
The quartet Just Righteous inspired with A Change Is Gonna Come and other classic songs. Frank Williams discussed President Lincoln’s views on the DC Emancipation Act. Harold Holzer spoke about media reaction. Edna Greene Medford recounted the city’s response to the law.
While the speakers were informative, all three over-emphasized Lincoln’s role and managed to avoid mentioning an important political context. So, in the Q&A, I informed the audience of these crucial facts:
The DC Emancipation Act was written by a Republican Senator, Henry Wilson.
Republicans voted unanimously for the DC Emancipation Act.
Democrats voted unanimously against the DC Emancipation Act.
One of the 3,100 slaves liberated by the GOP made the statute “Freedom” which stands atop the U.S. Capitol dome.
In his closing remarks, Mayor Vincent Gray said that just as slaves back then were held in bondage, city residents today are also “held in bondage” because DC is not a state. Yes, that’s what he said — trivializing the horrors of slavery in order to make a political point.