On April 15, Boston commemorated Patriots Day while on April 16 , Washington, DC honors Emancipation Day. April 16 is a local holiday in Washington, D.C. Emancipation Day is the day in 1862 when President Abraham Lincoln signed a declaration freeing 3,100 slaves living in Washington. The president’s action happened nearly nine months before Mr. Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, which freed slaves in ten Confederate States.
Patriot’s Day is held one day earlier in Boston and commemorates the battles of Lexington and Concord, which were fought near Boston in 1775. Patriot’s Day is annually held on the third Monday of April and coincides with the running of the Boston Marathon. And following the day after the Boston Marathon terrorist attack, the parades and speeches went on as planned in DC–albeit with much greater security in DC. It is important to remember our past.
Emancipation day is more than parades but offers an educational approach to the past, present and the future. The District of Columbia also uses the day to bring attention to the fact that it does not have “true emancipation” as its citizens have no autonomy. On April 23, there is a special election being held in DC with a question to vote on autonomy for DC’s budget. There is no representation in the Senate and Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton has no voting rights in Congress. DC Emancipation Day is used to bring attention to the injustices on the residents of the District of Columbia who have no say in local budget or federal representation.
In honoring the former slaves, Emancipation Day also brings attention to the fact that former slaves helped to build many of the historic buildings that tourists come to visit every year such as the White House, the Capitol and land surrounding these buildings.
In 2005, DC Emancipation Day was made an official public holiday. Each year, educational and commemorative activities are held celebrating the end of slavery in the nation’s capital. But this year, greater attention was also paid to those in Boston and those who came to Boston for a fun filled day on Patriot’s Day and ended with tragedy. As the nation mourns the terrorist activities in Boston, DC remembers Boston too. In DC, we are praying with you in Boston.