D.C. Emancipation Day: From Franklin Park to Mount Vernon Square

Newly-renovated Franklin Park in 2021 AUSTERMUHLE DCist

D.C. Emancipation Day

Honor D.C. Emancipation Day with a walking tour that starts where Black Washingtonians originally celebrated their freedom from enslavement: Franklin Park in downtown D.C.

Starting in 1866, thousands of Black D.C. residents paraded from what was then known as Franklin Square through the city and back to commemorate, April 16, 1862, the date President Abraham Lincoln signed an act that freed all enslaved persons in the District of Columbia. Hear why D.C.’s enslaved were granted freedom nine months before nation-wide emancipation occurred and where annual celebrations were held.

Architectural and Historic Landmarks in Downtown D.C.

This walk travels between Franklin Park and Mount Vernon Square and features two downtown landmarks, the High Victorian-style Franklin School building located on Franklin Square itself, and the Carnegie Library building centered in Mount Vernon Square and built in a Beaux Arts style. In between are a collection of 19th- and 20th-century sites:

     - Eaton DC, a hotel inspired by the concept of "mission driven hospitality"

     - Asbury United Methodist Church, the oldest African American church in the city remaining on its original site

     - Samuel Gompers Park, site of a memorial to labor leader Samuel A. Gompers, founder and first president of the American Federation of Labor;

     - Morrison-Clark Inn, originally the home of one of D.C.'s wealthiest merchants, David Morrison.

Discover the D.C. History Center

The walk concludes inside the D.C. History Center, where participants can view DC Home Rule 50, a new photography exhibit that explores the themes of free elections, self-governance, full citizenship, and DC statehood.

What is D.C. Emancipation Day? On April 16, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln signed into legislation “An Act for the release of certain persons held to service or labor in the District of Columbia." The act freed the 3,100 women, men and children who were still enslaved in Washington, D.C. in 1862. The act also allowed for slaveowners to be compensated up to $300 for each individual they had legally owned. Nine months later, Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. The District of Columbia Compensated Emancipation Day became a public legal holiday for District of Columbia in 2005.

Explore more Washington, D.C. walks:  Carnegie Library and Mount Vernon Square and Abraham Lincoln's Washington

Guides that may lead this tour: 
Portrait of Carolyn

CAROLYN attributes her devotion to walking tours to perambulations through her new hometown when she arrived to earn an M.F.A. in Acting from The Catholic University of America. She is the founder of Washington Walks.

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Sunday, April 14, 2024 at 2:00 p.m.

This walk has been canceled, but we'll be back in 2025!

Also available to book privately. Contact us at info@washingtonwalks.com for details.

Approximately 2 hours
Required and limited to 15 participants.

$35 per person.

Contact us for private walk rates.

Walk departs from McPherson Square Metro station 14th Street exit
Questions? Answers here.

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