Archive for April 2014
April 16, is Emancipation day in the District. It celebrates the day in 1862 when 3,100 enslaved individuals in the District of Columbia were emancipated, including slaves who lived and worked in our community. This occurred nine months before Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation. The District emancipation involved compensating the slave owners – at a total cost of $1 million. It stands as the only emancipation with compensation in the United States. Four years later, after the Civil War ended and after the 1865 ratification of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution officially abolishing slavery nationwide – slaves were freed without compensation to their owners.
The Emancipation Day celebration was held yearly in the District from 1866 to 1901 with a parade. Organized by the black elite of the city, the parades began in 1866 as a demonstration of African American pride and political strength. School children often took a day off in order to watch all the black civic organizations and clubs march in the parade. Militia groups and Civil War veterans marched in full regalia with slogans on banners that called for liberty and equality for all citizens.1 Rain or shine the emancipation parades went on, all throughout the city in stark contrast to the black codes of the antebellum era, which restricted African American movements. Where slave coffles had once passed, free African Americans now marched openly rejoicing their new status as citizens.
In close proximity to the White House, where many of the domestic staff had been enslaved, witnessing scores of free African Americans in elaborate civilian or military dress was an evocative image. Presidential approval helped make the parades a success and acknowledged African-Americans had the right to assemble in Lafayette Square as free people. Presidents Ulysses S. Grant and Andrew Johnson particularly enjoyed the tributes to Lincoln and the Republican Party as emancipators. Presidents usually reviewed at least one of the parades during their administration.
The city revived the parades in 2002 as a result of the research, lobbying and leadership of Ms. Loretta Carter-Hanes. She started her quest to bring back the parades in the early 1980s. She scoured the archives for any and all information about emancipation day and the parades. Starting in 1991, Hanes organized events that would commit the day to public memory. Eventually, Emancipation Day was made an official public holiday in the District of Columbia in 2005. Each year, District residents again celebrate the end of slavery in Washington, D.C.
Among those compensated for their slaves were John Adlum’s heirs. He was the founder of the Springland Farm. In order to secure compensation, they had to pledge loyalty to the Union and would then received up to $300 per freed slaves. (The DC emancipation act also appropriated $100,000 “to aid in the colonization and settlement of such free persons of African descent now residing in said District … as may desire to emigrate to the Republics of Haiti or Liberia, or such other country beyond the limits of the United States as the President may determine.”) This compensation process, plus Adlum family wills where their “property” is listed, gives us precise records of the slaves that lived and labored on the Springland Farm for the Adlum family.
Today is a day to honor these men and women and their children who toiled on the land where we live.
Chuck Ludlam and Paula Hirschoff live in the UDC area. Thanks, Chuck!
Frank P. Esposito
Administrative Support Specialist
P.O. Box 37012
National Museum of African Art 0708
Washington, DC 20013-7012
He was known to wear a large hat that made him look like a scarecrow. His scruffy overgrown salt-and-pepper beard resembled Dumbledoor from Harry Potter. He was an older Iranian immigrant with an accent like a foriegn-born university professor. His large frame cast a giant shadow and his commanding deep voice made some feel frightened. Yet, he always had a pleasant demeanor except when arguing for justice.
On Tuesday, after the night prayers were concluded he was found lying dead by a park bench in front of the mosque. He had passed away during the prayer service. We had lost one of the most regular members of our community.
He was an ever present personality. The kind of talkative eccentric that when you see him coming you kind of hope he won’t try to engage you in some esoteric conversation that will invariably last too long. He often rode a bicycle to the mosque, when he had one. He would deliver bread and fruits from neighborhood shops to make them available to members of the community. He was always present and controversially outspoken at town-hall and community meetings and the community leadership always allowed him to have a voice, even though often times his statements did not make sense in the context of our gatherings.
He was a voracious reader and regular user of the public library. He would often come to me talk about articles which he had read on the internet regarding a wide array of social and political issues.
He was a real germophobe, always concerned about physical contact. He would never pray side-by-side with the congregation and never shake hands. He would always greet me by bumping our forearms.
I found it strange that vehemently criticized the mosque for sheltering homeless people of all faiths in the mosque during the winter months. Although, he was poor we never found him begging or asking for charity.
You see, I believe he was chronically homeless and was probably battling some type of psychological or emotional disorder. He was one of those people who refused to be institutionalized (homeless shelter) even for his benefit or to seek treatment. He tried to find a spiritual home at a number of centers in our region but was not welcomed (or tolerated) until he came to Dar Al-Hijrah in Falls Church, Virginia. Perhaps because of the cultural atmosphere of Virginia and with the resources of Fairfax county he was able to make a life for himself.
After his death the authorities tried to find his next of kin. Finally, they released body to the masjid. He had no other family besides us and although he had no assets when it came time to pay for his burial expenses his mosque family came together and in a matter of minutes raised thousands of dollars for his burial. He was the most well-known and loved homeless person in our community.
Undoubtably he was an ever present part of us. May God have mercy on him and grant the finest home in the highest places in paradise. Those of us who God has given another day need to recommit ourselves faithfully to fight to end homelessness and to provide mental health services to all.
Imam Johari Abdul-Malik
Dar Al-Hijrah Islamic Center
Falls Church, VA