- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 16, 2005

Crowds gathered throughout the District yesterday to mark the 143rd anniversary of the end of slavery in the city with an array of events that included a solemn wreath-laying ceremony on Capitol Hill and an upbeat parade along Pennsylvania Avenue in Northwest.

The day’s events commemorated April 16, 1862, when President Lincoln signed the law ending slavery in the District, which freed 3,100 slaves. Nine months later, Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation that freed the slaves in the South.

This is the first year that Emancipation Day was an official city holiday.

Bernard Gibson, who watched high-stepping college and high school bands in the parade along Pennsylvania Avenue, said he was pleased the city had made the day a public holiday.

“So many children coming up today don’t know the city’s history,” said Mr. Gibson, 69, of Northeast. “It was not always the way it is now — the struggles we went through. I remember People’s Drug Store. We couldn’t sit at the counter and have a meal. So you can see what’s going on today and how far we have come.”

The parade also included a horse and carriage that carried Mayor Anthony A. Williams and council member Vincent Orange, both Democrats.

“This is our holiday,” said Mr Orange, the parade’s grand marshal. “Now we can focus on voting rights and use this day to let the world know that we have no representation [in Congress].”

More than 100 people gathered at the Emancipation Statue in Lincoln Park, adorned with a wreath of red carnations, for a morning of reflection, soul-stirring spirituals by the All Souls Church Jubilee Singers and a historical overview of the District’s emancipation by author and historian C.R. Gibbs.

Mr. Gibbs discussed D.C. life before the Civil War, when blacks could not own dogs and women and children were kidnapped and sold. He also said Emancipation Day is a significant part of history because it was the only instance of compensated emancipation in U.S. history. It was the first time the federal government put its full might behind ending slavery, and it led directly to the Emancipation Proclamation, the end of slavery in the Western territories and the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments to the Constitution.

Peter Hanes, a member of the D.C. Emancipation Commemorative Events Series Committee, said Emancipation Day is a special day to educate the public, especially children, about the abolition of slavery in the District.

“We need all of our partners in the public and private sectors to come together in the seriousness of the occasion to commemorate this event with the same level of effort and respect given Martin Luther King’s birthday and Black History Month,” he said

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