Emancipation Day Reads with the Washington Mystics

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Emancipation Day Reads with the Washington Mystics

Celebrate the 160th Emancipation Day with thought-provoking reads and powerful author conversations.

On Saturday, Apr. 16, Washington, D.C. will observe the 160th Emancipation Day. DC Public Library is teaming up with the Washington Mystics to recommend thought-provoking reads about the history of emancipation here in Washington, D.C. and powerful author conversations that explore the ramifications of institutional racism in our society. Check them out today with your library card. 

History of Emancipation in Washington D.C.

These titles can be accessed through the local history collection at the People's Archive located at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library. 

First Freed: Washington, D.C. In the Emancipation Era, edited by Elizabeth Clark-Lewis
This revised edition of award-winning author and historian Clark-Lewis's 1998 volume, published to commemorate the 140th anniversary of Emancipation in the District of Columbia, provides readers with critical research and information about this often overlooked and underexamined aspect of local and national history.

Lincoln and Emancipation in the District of Columbia, by J.C. Ladenheim
Lincoln had long sought emancipation for the District of Columbia. As President, he was hopeful that his plan for compensated emancipation would even find some support from among the slave owners, or at least would not be too distasteful to them. The book describes the passage of his District of Columbia Emancipation Bill through Congress, the modifications made to it, and its reception by the public.

Abraham Lincoln and the End of Slavery in the District of Columbia, edited by Robert S. Pohl and John R. Wennersten
Slavery--furiously debated, yet recognized in the Constitution--was a stain on the nation's consciousness since the founding of the Republic. As the country grew, legal battles erupted over the fate of fugitive slaves and the rights of slave-owners to take their property into free states. Nowhere was the issue more sharply drawn than in the nation's capital, where government leaders saw firsthand the shame and disgrace of legal slavery and the inherent moral conflict with guarantees in the Declaration of Independence. Decades of agitation for change came to fruition on April 16, 1862, when Abraham Lincoln signed legislation that ended slavery in the District of Columbia--nine months before the Emancipation Proclamation, which liberated slaves only in the Confederacy, and a full three years before the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment.

Books and Author Conversations

Just Pursuit: A Black Prosecutor's Fight for Fairnessby Laura Coates
When Laura Coates joined the Department of Justice as a prosecutor, she wanted to advocate for the most vulnerable among us. She quickly realized that even with the best intentions, being black, a woman, and a mother are identities often at odds in the justice system. Coates saw how black communities are policed differently, prosecuted differently, and judged differently. She witnessed how others in the system either abused power or were abused by it. In exploring the tension between the idealism of the law and the reality of working within the parameters of our flawed legal system, Coates exposes the chasm between what is right and what is lawful.

Laura joined CNN's Abby Philip for an author talk about Just Pursuit earlier this year. You can watch their conversation on Youtube below.


The Black and the Blue: A Cop Reveals the Crimes, Racism, and Injustice in America's Law Enforcement, by Matthew Horace and Ron Harris
During his 28-year career, Matthew Horace rose through the ranks from a police officer working the beat to a federal agent working criminal cases in some of the toughest communities in America to a highly decorated federal law enforcement executive managing high-profile investigations nationwide. Yet it was not until seven years into his service- when Horace found himself face down on the ground with a gun pointed at his head by a white fellow officer-that he fully understood the racism seething within America's police departments.

Through gut-wrenching reportage, on-the-ground research, and personal accounts from interviews with police and government officials around the country, Horace presents an insider's examination of archaic police tactics. He dissects some of the nation's most highly publicized police shootings and communities to explain how these systems and tactics have hurt the people they serve, revealing the mistakes that have stoked racist policing, sky-high incarceration rates, and an epidemic of violence.

Matthew and Ron led a book discussion for DC Public Library's 2021 Virtual DC Author Fest in partnership with INKPEN. INKPEN is a collaboration between readers and writers to put books in the hands of teens in under-resourced school libraries and to ensure that readers of color have access to stories by writers of color. Watch the conversation below.


Let My People Vote: My Battle to Restore the Civil Rights of Returning Citizens, by Desmond Meade

Desmond Meade was a convicted felon who turned his life around and got a law degree; when it came time to vote for his wife for state office, he found he had been disenfranchised.

Desmond Meade survived a tough childhood only to find himself with a felony conviction. He further survived hardships that led him to the brink of suicide. Finding the strength to pull his life together, he graduated from law school and married. When his wife ran for state office, he was filled with pride--but not permitted to vote for her. He spearheaded a movement to restore voting rights to felons who had served their terms, and in November of 2018, Amendment 4 passed with 65% of the vote. Today, Desmond continues his justice work, including fighting back against new restrictions placed on Florida voters, restrictions that have been likened to Jim Crow laws. In this book he tells the story of his battles on all fronts, and of his undying belief in the power of a fully enfranchised nation.

Desmond joined literary activist and publicist Mocha Ochoa for a conversation about voting rights last year in an episode of Literary Lounge with Mocha. Watch their discussion below.