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General Alfred H. Terry, General Order Number Four, Headquarters, Department of Virginia, January 17, 1866

Alfred Howe Terry, detail
During the latter half of 1865, reconstituted state legislatures in the old Confederacy began to pass new laws that defined the post-slavery treatment of their inhabitants, black and white. Many of these laws took on the appearance of pre-war criminal laws, especially where African-Americans were concerned. Northern observers began to call these law the "Black Codes." One such a law, for example, the Vagrancy Laws passed in Virginia in late 1865, posed particular problems for the newly emancipated African-American in Virginia. According to observers, white employers, in "unjust and wrongful combinations" were conspiring to keep black wages so low as to force many into the hands of the Vagrancy Act. General Alfred H. Terry, the Department of Virginia Union Army commander in this order, instructed that the statute be ignored in the state. His order was supported in Washington. (By John Osborne)

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