News & Politics

Emancipation Day at 150: How Slaves in Washington D.C. Are Helping Procrastinating Taxpayers Today


Procrastinating taxpayers: wonder why you’re getting a couple extra days to file your taxes this year?

April 15 fell on a Sunday this year, so you can thank a Christian for the first extra day, as politicians are so terrified of offending them, they’ve never liked to do government business on Sundays.

But if you want to know who to thank for Tax Day being tomorrow and not today, April 16, consider thanking Abraham Lincoln.

Or, more aptly, think of thanking one of the more than 3,000 slaves living in the District of Columbia 150 years ago in 1862.

It was on April 16, 1862 when President Lincoln signed the Compensated Emancipation Act. The act predated the Emancipation Proclamation by many months and predated Juneteenth, the day when Texas finally was forced to acknowledge to the end of slavery, by three years.

According to wikipedia:

The municipality of Washington, D.C., celebrates April 16 as Emancipation Day. On that day in 1862, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Compensated Emancipation Act for the release of certain persons held to service or labor in the District of Columbia. The Act freed about 3,100 enslaved persons in the District of Columbia nine months before President Lincoln issued his famous Emancipation Proclamation. The District of Columbia Compensated Emancipation Act represents the only example of compensation by the federal government to former owners of emancipated slaves.

On January 4, 2005, Mayor Anthony A. Williams signed legislation making Emancipation Day an official public holiday in the District. Although Emancipation Day occurs on April 16, by law when April 16 is a Saturday, Emancipation Day is observed on the preceding Friday. Each year, a series of activities will be held during the public holiday including the traditional Emancipation Day parade celebrating the freedom of enslaved persons in the District of Columbia. The Emancipation Day celebration was held yearly from 1866 to 1901, and was resumed as a tradition and historic celebration in 2002 as a direct result of years of research, lobbying and leadership done by Ms. Loretta Carter-Hanes.

In 2007, the observance of this holiday in Washington, D.C. had the effect of nationally extending the 2006 income tax filing deadline from April 16 to April 17. …In 2012, because Emancipation Day falls on Monday, April 16, and the normal tax deadline of April 15 falls on a Sunday, the tax deadline will be on Tuesday, April 17.

So as you rush today to send your money off to Washington, take a moment to remember the thousands of slaves who lived there who built the U.S. Capitol, built the White House, and whose freedom, granted 150 years ago today, is giving you a few extra filing hours.


Most Popular