WASHINGTON (WDVM) — In Washington D.C. Saturday hundreds returned for the celebration of the district’s Emancipation Day. The annual festival was put on hold for two years due to COVID-19.

The historic holiday commemorates the end of slavery in the nation’s capital, but what does the holiday truly mean for African Americans today. WDVM spoke to an expert to breakdown the historic impact.

“It’s a day of celebration, it shows that our country move forward and it was a big area this is significant,” said Dr. Jason Nichols, senior African American studies lecturer at the University of Maryland College Park.

On April 16, 160 years ago legislation was passed that emancipated more than 3000 enslaved Africans.

“The really significant part about that is while there’s a discussion nationwide, about reparations, we have to recognize that there were reparations at that time, they just didn’t go to the enslaved Africans, they went to the former slaveholders who are compensated for their loss of property,” said Nichols.

It was a historic step in a better direction for African Americans in the nation’s capital.

“If you want to talk about the history of this nation, you need to know all the parts of it, the good, the bad, and the ugly, and you need to know about all different kinds of people and how this nation has treated them and how we’ve progressed,” said Nichols.

Nichols says African Americans have made tremendous progress since then but more still needs to be done.

“We also have to acknowledge that we have an extremely, extremely long way to go. We have so many disparities in terms of wealth in terms of homeownership, in terms of the environment. You know, in terms of health care and health outcomes, there are so many places that need our focus.
He says through honoring this historic day, and uniting with others more can be done for the Black community,” he said.

He says by continuing to recognize this day, and joining forces with others more can be done for the Black community.

“We all have a role in this country in terms of making it a better place, make it a more equitable place, making it a place where anybody can reach their goals. That’s the goal of America and we’re going to need everyone to participate and do their part,” he said.

The Washington D.C. emancipation day festival included several performances and a fireworks show near Pennsylvania and 10th street.