The Winner of the 2021 David J. Langum, Sr. Prize in American Legal History is Traveling Black: A Story of Race and Resistance by Mia Bay
“American identity has long been defined by mobility and the freedom of the open road, but African Americans have never fully shared in that freedom,” Mia Bay writes in her extraordinary, elegant, and moving new book. From stagecoaches and steamships to trains, planes, and automobiles, travel throughout the nation has been the site of racial discrimination and African American resistance. Bay brilliantly demonstrates how travel became the flash point for racial conflict and reminds us how many Rosa Parks preceded Rosa Parks. This superbly researched story takes us beyond the courtroom to the actors who agitated to end segregation in transportation and demonstrates the changing–and continuing–ways they navigated race and shared space. Brava! – L.K.
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The Finalist of the 2021 David J. Langum, Sr. Prize in American Legal History is Vice Patrol: Cops, Courts, and the Struggle over Urban Gay Life before Stonewall by Anna Lvovsky
In this wide-ranging and imaginative study, Anna Lvovsky centers the law’s confrontation with gay life in the United States in the mid-20th century, training her eye on criminal justice at the local level. Lvovksy illuminates the tensions between, on the one hand, state liquor agencies established post-Prohibition and the newly-formed vice patrols of local police forces, and, on the other hand, state trial courts, where judges exercised discretion to temper what they viewed as bureaucratic and law enforcement excesses. While this story alone would render Vice Patrol an important addition to our burgeoning history of the American criminal justice system, the study is all the more important for a larger dynamic Lvovsky’s study reveals: that the project of policing gay life prior to Stonewall was not simply a contest over sexual practices or public conduct, but also was the site of an institutional struggle over the boundaries of the criminal justice system itself. – D.S.