On Thursday, April 16, 2015, from 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm, the African American Civil War Museum will join the District of Columbia in commemorating the anniversary of DC Emancipation with a Candlelight Vigil and Reading of the Names of First Freed.

The Candlelight Vigil will take place in front of the African American Civil War Memorial, which lists the names of 209,145 soldiers who served in the Union army under the Bureau of United States Colored Troops during the Civil War.

On April 16, 1862, Congress passed and President Abraham Lincoln signed the Compensated Emancipation Act of the District of Columbia allowing the 3,100 enslaved individuals residing in Washington DC to gain their freedom. Since that day 153 years ago, the citizens of the District of Columbia have commemorated the occasion every year. Today the date is a formal holiday with school and government closings and commemorated with a full day of festivities that include a parade, concert, lunch and fireworks.

The evening’s program is as follows:

  • Posting of Colors - 1st United States Colored Troops
  • Singing of the National Anthem
  • A brief overview of the DC Emancipation Act
  • Performance from the Saltwater Players
  • Reading of the Names of the First Freed
  • Laying of the Wreath and Lighting of the Candles
  • Light Reception in the African American Civil War Museum

The program will be highlighted with musical performances from local church choirs; the Saltwater Players, a visiting choir; and a premier Gullah Geechee performance group from Savannah, Georgia. The District of Columbia Mayor, Muriel Bowser, and members of the DC City Council have been invited.

Many of the soldiers listed on the Memorial wall gained their freedom with the Civil War, and their first act as free men was serving their country. Some of the soldiers listed under the 1st United States Colored Troops, the Washington DC regiment, were personally impacted by the DC Emancipation Act -- either gaining their own freedom or that of a loved one. So it is fitting that this vigil should take place at a memorial dedicated to their service.

The African American Civil War Memorial is located across the street from the African American Civil War Museum near 10th and U streets Northwest.
This program is free to the public.