The Historical Origins of Vagrancy Laws in Louisiana

By Quarles, LLP (Guy Chinang)

This paper explores the impact of the Emancipation Proclamation in racializing pan-handling law in Louisiana. Initially developed to impose a social order against Irish immigrants, vagrancy began to target black people when the abolition of slavery ended the free supply of black labor. In criminalizing black people, the law afforded white planters access to cheap and tame labor. Accordingly, vagrancy law was used to control black people’s movement, political potential, and employment.

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