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The Emancipation Proclamation was the executive order given by US President Abraham Lincoln on the 1st of January, 1863, during the American Civil War. It proclaimed that 3.1 million of the the U.S.'s 4 million slaves were to eventually be freed as Union Armies advanced, and that 50,000 of them would be freed immediately. During September the year before, Lincoln had announced the forthcoming proclamation, which would formally free all slaves in any Confederate State that did not return to the fold.

Lincoln's decision was controversial, even in the North, since it granted freedom only to slaves over which the Union had no control. Though once southern slaves heard of the Proclamation, they quickly escaped in droves to the Union Army lines as the units moved South. As they advanced, thousands of slaves a day were freed until nearly the entire 4 million or so were liberated, sometime in July 1865.

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