The District of Columbia Emancipation Act freed approximately 3000 slaves 16 April, 1862, beginning nine months before the Emancipation Proclamation of 1 Jan 1863. To encourage the freeing of the D. C. slaves, slave owners were compensated from $1 - $300 for each slave. There are cases where slaveholders sought for higher compensation. A 15 July 1862 deadline for submitting petitions to receive the compensation and free slaves gave a sense of urgency. Over 161 slaves also petitioned directly, usually after the 15 July deadline.
Where Are the Records?
- Records of the Board of Commissioners for the Emancipation of Slaves in the District of Columbia, 1862–1863 (Microfilm M520) relates directly to dispensation of the emancipation acts of April 16 and July 12, 1862 and information on the 966 petitioners. Reference Record Group 217: Records of the Accounting Officers of the Department of the Treasury
- Records of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia Relating to Slaves, 1851–1863 (RG 21, M433). These records include manumission papers, and certificate of freedom" of free blacks and documents of enslaved blacks living in Washington, DC
- Habeas Corpus Case Records, 1820–1863, of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia (M434), contain records relevant to runaway slaves in the District of Columbia. However, due to the nature of the cases, researchers may find manumission papers and detailed statements of freedom.