The Wormleys: Free Blacks in the Civil War Era

Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library - Central Library

The Wormleys: Free Blacks in the Civil War Era

James WormleyD.C. Emancipation Day recognizes the end of human bondage in the District of Columbia.  On April 16, 1862, the celebration began shortly after President Abraham Lincoln signed the District of Columbia Compensated Emancipation Act.  It led to the freeing of nearly 3,100 slaves, reimbursed slaveholders and offered the newly freed men and women funds to emigrate.  

During the Civil War Era, the nation's capital also served as home to nearly 11, 000 free blacks. One of the families of influence was the Wormleys. 

Born in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 16, 1819 to free-born citizens, James Wormley became the successful owner of a restaurant.  In l871, he purchased a hotel, naming it the Wormley House. Among its numerous highlights, the hotel served as the location for secret meetings that resulted in the infamous Compromise of 1876, in which Republican Presidential Candidate Rutherford B. Hayes became the 19th President of the United States. 

What were some of the experiences of the Wormley family during the Civil War Era? In recognition of the 151st Anniversary of the District of Columbia Compensation Act, come out on Tuesday, April 30 at 6 p.m. to hear a presentation by attorney Donet D. Graves about how the family dealt with racism, economic struggles and the fight for freedom.