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DC Emancipation Act

On April 16, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln signed into law the D.C. Emancipation Act, freeing enslaved persons in Washington, DC. Their owners were compensated by the U.S. Treasury Department. In this Inside the Vaults video short, Documentary Archivist Damani Davis discusses the petitions filed by owners and slaves under the Act and the details they reveal about the enslaved African-American community at the time. Archivist Robert Ellis explains how the process worked. Kenneth Winkle, Sorensen Professor of American History at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, explains how the University's new website, Civil War Washington (, will make the petitions available to researchers. Inside the Vaults includes highlights from the National Archives in the Washington, DC, area and from the Presidential libraries and regional archives nationwide. These shorts present behind-the-scenes exclusives and offer surprising stories about the National Archives treasures. See more from Inside the Vaults at
Length: 03:57


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