DC Emancipation Day

On April 16, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln signed the District of Columbia Compensated Emancipation Act, which ended slavery in Washington, D.C. and freed over 3,000 enslaved individuals. Each year, Georgetown provides programming to engage the campus and local community in commemorating this history and reflecting on the university’s historical ties to slavery.

2022 DC Emancipation Day

To commemorate the 160th anniversary of DC Emancipation, The Booth Family Center for Special Collections and the Georgetown Slavery Archive invites your participation in the following events:

  • April 12-20, 2022 – Emancipation Exhibit 
    • An exhibition of documents that explore the significance of the act that ended slavery at Georgetown College and its surrounding areas. Enacted on April 16, 1862, the District of Columbia Compensated Emancipation Act freed 3,000 individuals bound to labor in the nation’s capital. The act was a major victory for abolitionists who campaigned to end slavery and establish civil equality in the only jurisdiction directly governed by Congress.

      The Emancipation exhibition will remain on display in the third floor lobby of Lauinger Library. Booth staff will be present at the exhibition site on April 14 and April 18 (noon-2 p.m.) to discuss the historical importance of the rare documents on display and respond to questions.

  • April 16, 2022 – Reading of the Names
    • Honoring the men, women, and children enslaved and sold by the Maryland Jesuits is an important ritual in Georgetown’s Emancipation Day programming each year. The 1838 Articles of Agreement begin with Isaac, who is now the namesake of Isaac Hawkins Hall on Georgetown’s main campus, and conclude with “unnamed children.” The Georgetown community reads their names in honor and remembrance.
  • April 19, 2022 – “Facing Georgetown’s History” Talk
    • A launch event for the new book Facing Georgetown’s History: A Reader on Slavery, Memory, and Reconciliation, edited by Georgetown University Professor of History Adam Rothman and Middlebury College Assistant Professor of History Elsa Barraza Mendoza, at 4 p.m, Booth Family Center for Special Collections classroom on the fifth floor of Lauinger Library.
  • April 27, 2022 –  Virtual Transcription Event
    • Hosted by the Georgetown Slavery Archive, participants will transcribe historical documents for digitization.


2021 DC Emancipation Day

In commemoration of DC Emancipation Day, Georgetown University hosted the spring Universities Studying Slavery (USS) Conference.

Occurring in the midst of a global health crisis, and persistent social and racial injustices, the spring conference examined efforts to trace historical and contemporary legacies of enslavement,  and explored ways to implement lasting change.

The two-day event featured:

Read more about the USS Conference here:

Georgetown Preserves Memory, Charts Path for Lasting Change at Emancipation Day Conference on Legacies of Enslavement


2020 DC Emancipation Day

To commemorate DC Emancipation Day this year, Georgetown University invited the community to be together in a virtual space to honor and remember the ancestors who were enslaved by the Society of Jesus as well as in the local Georgetown community.  The weeklong event included:

  • A Georgetown Slavery Archive virtual transcription event
  • A video series offering historical background information and reflective readings on slavery, and updates on the virtual transcription progress
  • A virtual reading of the names of those enslaved and sold by the Maryland Jesuits in 1838

Read more about DC Emancipation Day 2020 here:

Transcription Event for Georgetown Slavery Archive Honors DC Emancipation Day



2019 DC Emancipation Day

2019 Emancipation Day programming featured three events:

Read more about these events:

Emancipation Day Celebrations Include Historical Documentation, Slavery Narratives



2018 DC Emancipation Day

Georgetown commemorated Washington, D.C.’s 156th observance of Emancipation Day by participating in “We Choose to Remember: A Conversation on the Legacies of Slavery,” an event at the National Museum of African American History and Culture, and hosting the Oblate Sisters of Providence on campus for an event honoring Anne Marie Becraft.

Read more about these events:

Georgetown Joins Emancipation Day Conversations on Legacies of Slavery
Emancipation Day Event Honors Legacy of African American Educator, Nun



2017 DC Emancipation Day

In April 2017, Georgetown held two special ceremonies in commemoration of D.C. Emancipation Day: the Liturgy of Remembrance, Contrition and Hope, and a Dedication ceremony for Isaac Hawkins Hall and Anne Marie Becraft Hall.

Read more about these events:

Georgetown Apologizes for 1838 Sale of More Than 270 Enslaved, Dedicates Buildings
Building to Be Renamed for Pioneer Black Educator Anne Marie Becraft
Georgetown to Rename Building for Isaac Hawkins, One of 272 Enslaved in 1838 Sale
Video from the April 2017 events

Other events included:

  • Archival Presentations: Dr. Adam Rothman, Professor in the Department of History, offered presentations on the Georgetown Slavery Archive in Special Collections in Lauinger Library.
  • Tree Ceremony and A Libation Ritual For Ancestors: During a special ceremony, members of the Georgetown, Descendant, and Jesuit communities read the names of the 272 enslaved individuals and planted a special symbolic tree on campus.
  • “DEFIANCE: A Journey to Now”: The Georgetown Black Movements Dance theater and the Black Pearl Dance Theater gave a special performance in Gaston Hall.
  • Glimpses of Slavery at Georgetown College: This archival exhibit was available in the Steven Richard Kerbs Exhibit area in Lauinger Library.
  • Maryland Jesuit Plantation and Parish Heritage Tours: During Emancipation week, Georgetown University organized two site visits to former Maryland Jesuit plantations and parishes in consultation with local parishes and members of the Descendant community.
  • Blacks and Jews in the Age of Trump: This event included a jazz performance by MBowie and the Blast and a formal address by NAACP President Mr. Cornell W. Brooks.
  • Rosenwald Film Screening and discussion: This screening was moderated by film director Aviva Kempner and Dr. Maurice Jackson, an Associate Professor in the Department of History at Georgetown University.
  • Sotterley Plantation Speaker Series: Dr. Adam Rothman, Professor in the Department of History at Georgetown, participated in a speaker series where he discussed his work with the Georgetown Slavery Archive.



2016 DC Emancipation Day

The Working Group on Slavery, Memory, and Reconciliation hosted a week-long symposium of events, performances, lectures, tours, and reflections in honor of D.C. Emancipation Day 2016. Events included:

  • Archival Materials Exhibit: An exhibit in Lauinger Library featuring archival materials documenting Georgetown’s involvement in the institution of slavery.
  • Archival Presentation with Adam Rothman: A presentation on the archives by Working Group member Adam Rothman, Ph.D., Associate Professor of History.
  • Interfaith Service: An Interfaith Service in Riggs Library reflecting on racial injustice both historically and in our present day. A choir performed “Lift Every Voice and Sing.”
  • Jim Wallace Book Presentation: A presentation by Rev. Jim Wallis, President and Founder of Sojourners and Research Fellow at Georgetown’s Berkley Center, on his book, America’s Original Sin: Racism, White Privilege, and the Bridge to a New America, and a conversation with Terrence Johnson, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Religion and African American Studies at Georgetown University, and faculty fellow at the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs.
  • Kimberly Juanita Brown Book Presentation: A presentation by Kimberly Juanita Brown, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of English and Africana Studies at Mount Holyoke College, on her book, The Repeating Body: Slavery’s Visual Resonance in the Contemporary, and a conversation with Marcia Chatelain, Ph.D., Associate Professor of History and African American Studies and Working Group member.
  • “Freedom in the 21st Century” Panel Discussion: A panel discussion on “Freedom in the 21st Century” featuring four recent recipients of the John Thompson, Jr. Legacy of a Dream Award who have made significant contributions to our Washington, D.C., community, including Lecester Johnson, Mary Brown, George Jones, and Nakeisha Neal Jones (G ’02). Christopher Murphy, Vice President for Government Relations and Community Engagement at Georgetown, opened the conversation along with Kathy Kretman, Ph.D., Director at Georgetown’s Center for Public and Nonprofit Leadership and research professor at the McCourt School of Public Policy. The Georgetown a capella group the Saxatones also performed.
  • God and Country Performance: A performance of the docudrama God and Country, written and directed by Rev. Khristi Adams of Campus Ministry. Performed by Georgetown students to a sold-out crowd.
  • Ed Baptist Book Discussion: A discussion on themes from The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism, led by author Edward Baptist, Ph.D., Associate Professor of History at Cornell University, with Maurice Jackson, Ph.D., Associate Professor of History and African American Studies, Affiliated Professor of Performing Arts (Jazz) and Working Group member.
  • Assane Konte Master Class and Discussion: A master class, discussion, and “talk back” with Assane Konte, founder of the KanKouran West African Dance Company, about the history of West African Dance. The event was funded through a Freedom and Remembrance Grant submitted by the student organization Black Movements Dance Theatre (BMDT) and Alfreda Davis, Artistic Director for BMDT and a member of the Department of Performing Arts.
  • Richard America and Valerie Wilson Discussion: “Unjust Enrichment: The Social Debt from Slavery, Segregation and Racial Discrimination. Are There Remedies?” Georgetown Affiliated Professor Richard F. America and Valerie Wilson of the Economic Policy Institute offered reflections on racial disparities and possible remedies.
  • Craig Wilder Lecture: “War and Priests: Catholic Colleges and Slavery in the Age of Revolution” Craig Wilder, Ph.D., Professor of History at MIT and author of Ebony & Ivy: Race, Slavery, and the Troubled History of America’s Universities, discussed this topic in conversation with Maurice Jackson.
  • Historical Walking Tours: Working Group member Matthew Quallen led three historical walking tours of sites on and around campus linked to the institution of slavery and the neighborhood of Georgetown and Georgetown College.