Records of the Board of Commissioners for the Emancipation of Slaves in the District of Columbia, 1862–1863. NARA Microfilm Publication M520, 6 rolls. Records of the United States General Accounting, Record Group 217. National Archives, Washington, D.C.
In April of 1862 the U.S. government passed an act abolishing slavery in the District of Columbia. Petitions for compensation offered to slave owners whose slaves were emancipated by the act are contained in this database. These descriptions range from meeting minutes to petitions submitted and compensations awarded as well as additional administrative documents. The particular section titled “Petitions Filed under the Act of July 12, 1862” will be searchable only by viewing the actual images of the records as certain aspects of the document made keying the information difficult.
Specific records accessible in this database:
- Meeting minutes of the Board of Commissioners arranged chronologically April 28, 1862 through January 14, 1863
- Petitions filed under the act of April 16, 1862 dated from April 29, 1862 through July 15, 1862; arranged chronologically then by petition number showing the date the petition was filed, petition number, petitioner name, slave name and value
- Docket book kept by the Board from April 1862 through December 1862 of petitions filed under the Emancipation Act; arranged by petition number showing claimant name and a summary of action taken
- List of amounts awarded to claimants who filed petitions under the April 16, 1862 Emancipation Act; arranged by petition number showing claimant name, number of servants, amount awarded by the Board, and claimant signature
- Final report by the Board of Commissioners to the Secretary of the Treasury in three statements: list of petitions presented under the act of April 16, 1862; list of petitions received under the act of July 12, 1862; and an alphabetical list of claimants who would have eligible for awards if their petitions had been filed before the deadline
- Petitions filed with the Board under the act of April 16, 1862 and July 12, 1862
Please Note: When searching this database, you will be taken to the beginning of a case file. In order to view all records which may pertain to your ancestor, be sure to scroll through the images surrounding the image you are taken to initially.
About slavery in the nation’s capital
The slave trade was actively practiced in Washington D.C. from its founding in 1790. Because the federal district was between Virginia and Maryland, both active slave states, it provided a central location for slave trade. Abolitionists in the nation became increasingly agitated by this traffic in the nation’s capital and called for it to be dissolved. The Compromise of 1850 abolished slave trading within the boundaries of the District; however, slavery remained legal in the area until the D.C. Emancipation Act of April 16, 1862. This new act permitted slave owners to file petitions for compensation promising loyal Unionist masters up to $300 for each slave as well as voluntary colonization for former slaves outside the United States. An initial 966 petitioners filed claims for 3,100 slaves and another 161 persons submitted claims after the July 12 supplementary act including former slaves whose owners had not filed petitions. These are the records contained in this database.
Some of the above information was taken from:
- Davis, Damani. ”Slavery and Emancipation in the Nation’s Capital: Using Federal Records to Explore the Lives of African American Ancestors.” Prologue, Spring 2010, Vol. 42, No. 1 (Washington D.C.: The National Archives, 2010).
Information in this database:
- Petition date
- Slave names
- Case number
Information that may be in this database:
- Physical description of slave
- Monetary value claimed
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