People out of Place: The Sixties, the Supreme Court, and Vagrancy Law


Frederick Burkhardt Residential Fellowships for Recently Tenured Scholars


Law School


For residence at the John W. Kluge Center at the Library of Congress during academic year 2012-2013


In 1971 and 1972, the US Supreme Court struck down vagrancy laws long used to try to control minorities, dissidents, nonconformists, and the poor. This project examines the clash over vagrancy laws in the "long 1960s," the repeal and invalidation of the laws, and, more briefly, subsequent efforts to replace them. It shows how most of the era's social movements and their legal allies joined in the vagrancy law challenge, and how understanding that challenge requires integrating the legal, social, cultural, intellectual, and political history of the decade. Perhaps more surprisingly, it shows how understanding the 1960s requires understanding vagrancy laws. Because the laws were a key way of keeping marginal people in place, their undoing was a key part of the 1960s social revolutions.