Vagrant Nation: Police Power, Constitutional Change, and the Making of the 1960s

 
9780199768448: Vagrant Nation: Police Power, Constitutional Change, and the Making of the 1960s

In 1950s America, it was remarkably easy for police to arrest almost anyone for almost any reason. The criminal justice system-and especially the age-old law of vagrancy-played a key role not only in maintaining safety and order but also in enforcing conventional standards of morality and propriety. A person could be arrested for sporting a beard, making a speech, or working too little. Yet by the end of the 1960s, vagrancy laws were discredited and American society was fundamentally transformed. What happened? In Vagrant Nation, Risa Goluboff provides a groundbreaking account of this transformation. By reading into the history of the 1960s through the lens of vagrancy laws, Goluboff shows how constitutional challenges to long-standing police practices were at the center of the multiple movements that made "the 1960s." Vagrancy laws were so broad and flexible that they made it possible for the police to arrest anyone out of place in any way: Beats and hippies; Communists and Vietnam War protestors; racial minorities, civil rights activists, and interracial couples; prostitutes, single women, and gay men, lesbians, and other sexual minorities. As hundreds of these "vagrants" and their lawyers claimed that vagrancy laws were unconstitutional, the laws became a flashpoint for debates about radically different visions of order and freedom. In Goluboff's compelling portrayal, the legal campaign against vagrancy laws becomes a sweeping legal and social history of the 1960s. Touching on movements advocating civil rights, peace, gay rights, welfare rights, and cultural revolution, Vagrant Nation provides insight relevant to this battle, as well as the battle over the legacy of the 1960s' transformations themselves.

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About the Author:


Risa Goluboff is the Dean of the University of Virginia School of Law and the Arnold H. Leon Professor of Law. She is also the author of The Lost Promise of Civil Rights.

Review:


"With limpid and stylish prose and an eye for illustrative detail, Goluboff traces how the 'vagrancy law regime' came to be challenged and ultimately eliminated...[T]his compelling history, with its strong narrative flow, ranges widely beyond the chambers of the Supreme Court, offering a social history of legal change...Vagrant Nation is a necessary contribution to the history of police and social movements in the postwar United States..."--Stuart Schrader, The Journal of Southern History


"Vagrant Nation is an extraordinary accomplishment, one of the best books of constitutional history ever written. Using vagrancy law as her launching pad, Goluboff ties together and sheds light upon all of the major social reform movements of the 1960s and the constitutional law that arose around them-civil rights, gay rights, criminal procedure rights, the free speech rights of communists and Vietnam War protestors, the expressive rights of hippies and beatniks, and the sexual revolution. In the process, Goluboff teaches us how constitutional law gets made."--Michael J. Klarman, Kirkland & Ellis Professor, Harvard Law School


"Vagrant Nation is a fascinating account of how constitutional change occurs when old laws and new social understandings collide."--Linda Greenhouse, Lecturer, Yale Law School


"Vagrant Nation tells how police used vagrancy laws as all-purpose weapons to stifle the movements defining the Sixties, and how a movement of movements persuaded the Supreme Court to eradicate those laws and ban jailing people simply because they were different--black, poor, gay, hippie, or antiwar. It's a brilliant account of how a forgotten campaign to reform the law made America a more tolerant and much better country."--Lincoln Caplan, Truman Capote Visiting Lecturer in Law, Yale Law School


"A masterful exploration of constitutional change! Goluboff presents a fascinating account of how dragnet criminal laws, once considered desirable protection against undesirables, clashed with emerging visions of a more inclusive society."--Susan Herman, President, American Civil Liberties Union


"Goluboff offers a genuinely original take on the civil rights revolution--and one of enduring relevance in this era of high tension between the police and minorities."--Bruce Ackerman, Sterling Professor of Law and Political Science, Yale University


"Goluboff delivers an intelligently articulated, well-researched explication of vagrancy laws, including how new interpretations helped transform American society during the 1960s."--CHOICE


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Book Description Oxford University Press Inc, United States, 2016. Hardback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. Prior to the 1950s, it was remarkably easy for police to arrest people for a wide variety of activities performed in the streets. Throughout the country, vagrancy laws were far-reaching and pervasive. Yet by the end of the 1960s, streets across America hosted both massive political protests and a cultural revolution that reshaped not only the nation s public spaces, but more broadly its public life. For the era or against it, virtually all agreed that America after the 1960s was starkly different than before it. What happened? In Vagrant Nation, Risa Goluboff provides a truly groundbreaking explanation of the transformation. Focusing on Court decisions that loosened vagrancy laws and opened up the streets to Americans in all their variety, she shows how legal change helped fuel highly public social movements advocating everything from civil rights to peace to gay rights to cultural revolution. Indeed, increased access to the streets increased their public presence and thereby social power. The book is a brilliant example of how a seemingly small event -alteratations to the relatively minor crime of vagrancy-can contribute to a social revolution. Not only that, Goluboff powerfully demonstrates how the courts can advance social change-make history, so to speak. The vagrancy laws were that were on the books virtually everywhere in the 1950s served as a catchall device for police forces intent on establishing public order; you could be arrested for everything from causing a disturbance to behaving in a way contrary to the norm-fraternizing with a member of another race, for example, or publically preaching non-mainstream beliefs like communism. Given the very fluid interpretation of vagrancy, police inevitably abused it to the point where they could arrest almost any nonconforming person. Once the Supreme Court began invalidating these laws, it opened up public space to any manner of dissenter or nonconformist: hippies, war protestors, civil rights activists, interracial couples, gays, and, of course, vagrants-all the people occupying spaces previously off-limits to them. Goluboff s account is not just a investigation of the relationship between law and social change, however. It is also a ground-up history-from Skid Row to the Supreme Court-of the culture wars between the New Left and New Right. The results of these battles are abundantly evident today in both positive ways-like the increased openness to all in America s public spaces-and negative ways-especially the explosion of homelessness afterward. In sum, she shows that major societal changes can result not only from big waves, but from seeming ripples too. Bookseller Inventory # AAU9780199768448

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Book Description Oxford University Press Inc, United States, 2016. Hardback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. Prior to the 1950s, it was remarkably easy for police to arrest people for a wide variety of activities performed in the streets. Throughout the country, vagrancy laws were far-reaching and pervasive. Yet by the end of the 1960s, streets across America hosted both massive political protests and a cultural revolution that reshaped not only the nation s public spaces, but more broadly its public life. For the era or against it, virtually all agreed that America after the 1960s was starkly different than before it. What happened? In Vagrant Nation, Risa Goluboff provides a truly groundbreaking explanation of the transformation. Focusing on Court decisions that loosened vagrancy laws and opened up the streets to Americans in all their variety, she shows how legal change helped fuel highly public social movements advocating everything from civil rights to peace to gay rights to cultural revolution. Indeed, increased access to the streets increased their public presence and thereby social power. The book is a brilliant example of how a seemingly small event -alteratations to the relatively minor crime of vagrancy-can contribute to a social revolution. Not only that, Goluboff powerfully demonstrates how the courts can advance social change-make history, so to speak. The vagrancy laws were that were on the books virtually everywhere in the 1950s served as a catchall device for police forces intent on establishing public order; you could be arrested for everything from causing a disturbance to behaving in a way contrary to the norm-fraternizing with a member of another race, for example, or publically preaching non-mainstream beliefs like communism. Given the very fluid interpretation of vagrancy, police inevitably abused it to the point where they could arrest almost any nonconforming person. Once the Supreme Court began invalidating these laws, it opened up public space to any manner of dissenter or nonconformist: hippies, war protestors, civil rights activists, interracial couples, gays, and, of course, vagrants-all the people occupying spaces previously off-limits to them. Goluboff s account is not just a investigation of the relationship between law and social change, however. It is also a ground-up history-from Skid Row to the Supreme Court-of the culture wars between the New Left and New Right. The results of these battles are abundantly evident today in both positive ways-like the increased openness to all in America s public spaces-and negative ways-especially the explosion of homelessness afterward. In sum, she shows that major societal changes can result not only from big waves, but from seeming ripples too. Bookseller Inventory # AAU9780199768448

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