Emancipation Day

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

Emancipation Day is celebrated in many former British colonies in the Caribbean and areas of the United States on various dates in observance of the emancipation of slaves of African origin. It is also observed in other areas in regard to the abolition of serfdom or other forms of servitude.


The Slavery Abolition Act 1833 ended slavery in the British Empire on August 1, 1834. Emancipation Day is widely observed in the British West Indies during the first week of August. In many Caribbean countries the Emancipation Day celebration is a part of Carnival, as the Caribbean Carnival takes place at this time (although Carnival in Trinidad and Tobago takes place in February or March according to Ash Wednesday, not near August[1]).

August 1, 1834[edit]

  • Barbados: Emancipation Day in Barbados is part of the annual "Season of Emancipation" which runs from April 14 to August 23. The Season, includes the anniversary of the Slave Rebellion led by the Right Excellent Bussa, National hero, in 1816, National Heroes Day on April 28, the Crop Over Festival, the Day of National Significance on July 26 (in commemoration of the social unrest of 1937) and International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition on August 23. Emancipation Day celebrations usually feature a Walk from Independence Square in Bridgetown to the Heritage Village at the Crop Over Bridgetown Market on the Spring Garden Highway. At the Heritage Village, apart from a concert, there is also a wreath-laying ceremony as a tribute to the ancestors. Traditionally, the Prime Minister, the Minister responsible for Culture and representatives of the Commission for Pan African Affairs are among those laying wreaths.
  • Bermuda: Celebration usually occurs on August 2, despite August 1 being the national holiday. On the island the holiday is better known as the first day of "Cupmatch", an annual two-day cricket competition between the St. George's and Somerset cricket clubs.
  • Guyana
  • Jamaica
  • Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
  • Trinidad and Tobago
  • Turks and Caicos Islands
  • St. Lucia
  • Saint Andres Island, Providence and Saint Cathleena: For the first in history will be celebrating this day, it is a great fullfilment for the islands and more greater for the ethnic raizal afrocaribbean people, with different cultural activities and other cultural manifestations this great day will be carry out.

First Monday in August[edit]

Some countries observe the holiday as August Monday.

  • Antigua celebrates carnival on and around 1st Monday of August, 1834 Antigua and Barbuda always observed the freedom from the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. The first Monday and Tuesday in August was observed as a bank holiday so the populace can jump and wave and, celebrate Emancipation Day. Monday is J'ouvert a street party that mimics the early morning emancipation.
  • Anguilla: In addition to commemorating emancipation, it is the first day of "August Week", the Anguillian Carnival celebrations. J'ouvert is celebrated on this morning, as Carnival commences.
  • The Bahamas: Celebrations are mainly concentrated in Fox Hill Village, Nassau, a former slave village whose inhabitants, according to folklore, heard about their freedom a week after everyone else on the island. There is also a celebration beginning on August 1 and lasting several days held in the charming settlement of Hatchet Bay on the Bahamian island of Eleuthera known as the Bay Fest, as well as the settlement of Tarpum Bay also on the island of Eleuthera known as Back to The Bay.
  • British Virgin Islands: The first Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday of August are celebrated as "August Festival".
  • Saint Kitts and Nevis: The first Monday and Tuesday are celebrated as "Emancipation Day" and also "Culturama" in Nevis.
  • Dominica: The first Monday is celebrated as August Monday.
  • Grenada: The first Monday in August is celebrated as "Emancipation Day" with Cultural activities.


Puerto Rico celebrates Emancipation Day, an official holiday, on March 22.


The Slavery Abolition Act 1833 ended slavery in the British Empire on August 1, 1834, and thus also in Canada. However, the first colony in the British Empire to actually abolish slavery was Upper Canada, now Ontario. A British army officer and later the first Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada (1791–1796), John Graves Simcoe, passed an Act Against Slavery in 1793, which led to the abolition of slavery in Upper Canada by 1810. It was then superseded by the Slavery Abolition Act 1833.

While the date of the First August Monday holiday in Canada is historically linked to the abolition of slavery in the British Empire in 1834; not all of provinces' commemorate the holiday as such.


In 2008, the Province of Ontario dedicated August 1 as "Emancipation Day"[2]

Toronto, the capital city of Ontario, also hosts the "Caribana" Celebration which occurs the first Monday in August in Toronto. It is the largest Caribbean festival in North America and was started in 1967. A two week celebration culminating in the long weekend with the Kings and Queens Festival, "Caribana" parade and Olympic Island activities.

Locally, the August Holiday in Toronto has been designated as "Simcoe Day" to commemorate Ontario's first Lieutenant Governor John Graves Simcoe who made Upper Canada, now Ontario, the first jurisdiction in the British Empire to abolish slavery.

United States[edit]


The state of Florida observes emancipation in an unofficial commemoration on May 20. In the capital, Tallahassee, Civil War reenactors playing the part of Major General Edward McCook and other union soldiers act out the speech General McCook gave from the steps of the Knott House on May 20, 1865.[3] This was the first reading of the Emancipation Proclamation in Florida.[4]

Washington, D.C.[edit]

The District of Columbia celebrates April 16 as Emancipation Day. On that day in 1862, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Compensated Emancipation Act for the release of certain persons held to service or labor in the District of Columbia.[5] The Act freed about 3,100 enslaved persons in the District of Columbia nine months before President Lincoln issued his famous Emancipation Proclamation. The District of Columbia Compensated Emancipation Act represents the only example of compensation by the federal government to former owners of emancipated slaves.[6]

On January 4, 2005, Mayor Anthony A. Williams signed legislation making Emancipation Day an official public holiday in the District. Although Emancipation Day occurs on April 16, by law when April 16 falls during a weekend, Emancipation Day is observed on the nearest weekday.[7] Each year, a series of activities will be held during the public holiday including the traditional Emancipation Day parade celebrating the freedom of enslaved persons in the District of Columbia. The Emancipation Day celebration was held yearly from 1866 to 1901, and was resumed as a tradition and historic celebration in 2002[6] as a direct result of years of research, lobbying and leadership by Ms. Loretta Carter-Hanes.[citation needed]

In 2007, the observance of this holiday in Washington, D.C. had the effect of nationally extending the 2006 income tax filing deadline from April 16 to April 17. Under a federal statute enacted decades ago, holidays observed in the District of Columbia have an impact nationwide, not just in D.C. The 2007 date change was not discovered until after many forms went to print.[8] In 2011, the tax deadline was extended to Monday, April 18, since the observed date for the holiday was Friday, April 15.[9] In 2012, because Emancipation Day fell on Monday, April 16, and the normal tax deadline of April 15 fell on a Sunday, the tax deadline was Tuesday, April 17.[10]


In Columbus, Mississippi, Emancipation Day is celebrated on May 8, known locally as "Eight o' May". As in other southern states, the local celebration commemorates the date in 1865 when African Americans in eastern Mississippi learned of their freedom.


Main article: Juneteenth

In Texas, Emancipation Day is celebrated on June 19. It commemorates the announcement in Texas of the abolition of slavery made on that day in 1865. It is commonly known as Juneteenth. Since the late 20th century, this date has gained recognition beyond Texas, and has been proposed for a national Emancipation Day.


Emancipation Day is celebrated on August 8 in Paducah and McCracken County, Kentucky. According to the Paducah Sun newspaper, this is the anniversary of the day slaves in this region learned of their freedom.

U.S. Virgin Islands[edit]

The United States Virgin Islands celebrates Emancipation Day, an official holiday, on July 3. It commemorates the abolition of slavery by Danish Governor Peter von Scholten on July 3, 1848.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Trinidad and Tobago Carnival
  2. ^ http://www.e-laws.gov.on.ca/html/statutes/english/elaws_statutes_08e25_e.htm
  3. ^ "Knott House Museum Exhibits & Programs". Retrieved 2007-05-20. 
  4. ^ "Knott House Museum". Retrieved 2007-05-20. 
  5. ^ Chap. LIV. 12 Stat. 376 from "A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation: U.S. Congressional Documents and Debates, 1774 - 1875". Library of Congress, Law Library of Congress. Retrieved Oct. 19, 2009.
  6. ^ a b DC Celebrates Emancipation, Government of the District of Columbia
  7. ^ DC Department of Human Resources from "Holiday Schedule (2011 Holiday Schedule)"
  8. ^ Taxpayers Have Until April 17 to File and Pay (IR-2007-15), Internal Revenue Service 2007-01-24
  9. ^ "Holiday pushes income tax filing deadline to April 18". USA Today. 2011-01-05. Retrieved 2011-04-16. 
  10. ^ Mears, Teresa (2012-04-13). "Don't panic: Taxes aren't due until April 17". MSN Money. Retrieved 2012-04-15.