An Act Providing for the Education of Colored Children in the Cities of Washington and Georgetown, District of Columbia, May 21, 1862
As the Civil War intensified in the spring of 1862, Congress passed the D.C. Emancipation Act, officially ending slavery in the nation’s capital. Nevertheless, abolitionists believed additional legislation was needed to secure rights for African Americans. This law, signed by President Abraham Lincoln on May 21, 1862, established a system of public schools for the education of African American children in the District of Columbia. The law also made persons of color in the capital equally subject to the same criminal laws as free whites.
General Records of the U.S. Government, National Archives and Records Administration
The U.S. Constitution states that “The Congress shall have Power…To make all Laws.” The original laws enacted by Congress are preserved at the National Archives. This page highlights some of the most historically significant laws Congress has passed throughout the nation’s history.