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The first black African slaves in the American colonies arrived in the early 1600s. As the colonies grew, the demand for slave labor also increased. By 1750, 200,000 slaves lived in the colonies, the majority of them living and working in the South. Hundreds of thousands of slaves were brought to America during The Middle Passage and millions others died along the way. Slaves were forced to work farms and plantations, enduring brutality, cruelty, abuse and suffering. As injustices of slavery grew, resistance efforts formed, including the Underground Railroad. This secretive system of transporting slaves from safe house to safe house, helping them escape to free states or Canada, operated for years with Harriet Tubman, a former slave, as one of its leading figures. In 1861, the Civil War pitted the South, which favoured slavery, against the North, which opposed it. [Several other political and economic factors also caused the conflict.] President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on Jan. 1, 1863, declaring an end to slavery. In 1865, the 13th Amendment formally abolished slavery in the country. See Juneteenth, Middle Passage and Underground Railroad.

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