Risa Goluboff

  • Dean
  • Arnold H. Leon Professor of Law
  • Professor of History

Risa Goluboff is the 12th, and the first female, dean of the University of Virginia School of Law. She is a renowned legal historian whose scholarship and teaching focuses on American constitutional and civil rights law, and especially their historical development in the 20th century.

Goluboff is the author of The Lost Promise of Civil Rights (Harvard, 2007), which won the 2010 Order of the Coif Biennial Book Award and the 2008 James Willard Hurst Prize. Her second book, Vagrant Nation: Police Power, Constitutional Change, and the Making of the 1960s (Oxford, 2016) was supported by a 2009 John Simon Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship in Constitutional Studies and a 2012 Frederick Burkhardt Residential Fellowship from the American Council of Learned Societies. It received the American Historical Association’s 2017 Littleton-Griswold Prize, the 2017 Lillian Smith Book Award, the 2017 John Phillip Reid Book Award and the 2016 David J. Langum, Sr. Prize in American Legal History, among other honors. Goluboff is co-editor (with Myriam Gilles) of Civil Rights Stories, and the author of numerous shorter works.

Goluboff has been quoted or cited by The New York Times, Time, The Atlantic and more, and her commentaries frequently appear in Slate. She has appeared on PBS documentaries and the popular radio podcast “BackStory.” She is the co-host of the UVA Law School podcast “Common Law.”

Goluboff is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a member of the American Law Institute and a distinguished lecturer for the Organization of American Historians. She received the Law School’s Carl McFarland Award for excellence in faculty scholarship in 2008, and the University of Virginia’s All-University Teaching Award in 2011. She is also a professor of history in the Corcoran Department of History, a faculty affiliate at the Carter G. Woodson Institute for African-American and African Studies, and a faculty senior fellow at the Miller Center. She is vice chair of the advisory board for the UVA Karsh Institute of Democracy. Goluboff chaired the University’s Deans Working Group, established to lead the University’s response to the events of Aug. 11-12, 2017. From 2011 to 2016, she directed the University’s J.D.-M.A. in History Program. Goluboff has served as a visiting professor at the London School of Economics and Columbia, Chicago and New York University law schools.

Before joining the Law School in 2002, Goluboff clerked for Judge Guido Calabresi of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and Justice Stephen Breyer of the U.S. Supreme Court. She also served as a Fulbright Scholar to South Africa.

Goluboff’s “Vagrant Nation” Uncovers Rapid Revolution in Nation’s Laws, Police Power

Scholarship Profile: A Legal Historian Committed to Contemporary Social Justice (Virginia Journal 2007)


  • Ph.D.
    Princeton University
  • J.D.
    Yale Law School
  • M.A.
    Princeton University
  • A.B.
    Harvard University


Civil Rights Stories (edited with Myriam E. Giles), Foundation Press (2008).
The Lost Promise of Civil Rights, Harvard University Press (2007).

Book Chapters

United States Vagrancy Laws (with Adam Sorenson), in The Oxford Encyclopedia of American Urban History, Oxford University Press, 1350–1365 (2019).
Obama’s Court? (with Richard C. Schragger), in The Presidency of Barack Obama: A First Historical Assessment, Princeton University Press, 78 (2018).
Where Do We Go from Here?, in Charlottesville 2017: The Legacy of Race and Inequity, University of Virginia Press, 82 (2018).
The Thirteenth Amendment and a New Deal for Civil Rights, in The Promises of Liberty: The History and Contemporary Relevance of the Thirteenth Amendment, Columbia University Press, 119–137 (2010).
Civil Rights History Before, and Beyond, Brown, in Why the Local Matters: Federalism, Localism, and Public Interest Advocacy, Liman Public Interest Program at Yale Law School and the National State Attorneys General Program at Columbia Law School, 11–19 (2009).
Brown v. Board of Education and the Lost Promise of Civil Rights, in Civil Rights Stories, Foundation Press, 25–40 (2008).
Ongoing Struggle: The Deeper History of the Civil Rights Movement, in What Should I Read Next?, University of Virginia Press, 43–46 (2008).
Peonage, in Encyclopedia of the Supreme Court of the United States, Macmillan Reference USA, 32–34 (2008).
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), in Encyclopedia of U.S. Labor and Working-Class History, Routledge, 938–944 (2007).
Peonage, in Encyclopedia of U.S. Labor and Working-Class History, Routledge, 1067–1071 (2007).
Workers’ Defense League, in Encyclopedia of U.S. Labor and Working-Class History, Routledge, 1527–1529 (2007).
Vernon Lawhorn, Thomas James Buchner, and the Green Brothers: Reverse Migration in World War II, in The Human Tradition in American Labor History, Scholarly Resources, 193–209 (2004).

Articles & Reviews

Continuity and Change at UVA Law (with Carlos M. Brown), 70 Virginia Lawyer 33 (2022).
Forward, 108 Virginia Law Review Online 24–29 (2022).
A Tribute to Gordon Hylton, 104 Virginia Law Review 843–846 (2018).
Writing Vagrant Nation, 43 Law & Social Inquiry 1686–1697 (2018).
Panel Discussion on Saving the Neighborhood: Part II, 56 Arizona Law Review Syllabus 29–38 (2014).
Lawyers, Law, and the New Civil Rights History (reviewing Kenneth W. Mack, Representing the Race: The Creation of the Civil Rights Lawyer) 126 Harvard Law Review 2312–2335 (2013).
Review of Nancy Maclean, Freedom Is Not Enough: The Opening of the American Workplace (reviewing Nancy MacLean, Freedom is Not Enough: The Opening of the American Work­place) 27 Law & History Review 222–223 (2009).
The Thirteenth Amendment in Historical Perspective, 11 University of Pennsylvania Journal of Constitutional Law 1451–1473 (2009).
Race, Labor and the Thirteenth Amendment in the 1940s Department of Justice, 38 University of Toledo Law Review 883–894 (2007).
Deaths Greatly Exaggerated, 24 Law & History Review 201–208 (2006).
"We Live’s in a Free House Such as It Is": Class and the Creation of Modern Civil Rights, 151 University of Pennsylvania Law Review 1977–2018 (2003).
The Thirteenth Amendment and the Lost Origins of Civil Rights, 50 Duke Law Journal 1609–1686 (2001).
Reckoning with Race and Criminal Justice (reviewing Jerome G. Miller, Search and Destroy: African-American Males in the Criminal Justice System) 106 Yale Law Journal 2299–2304 (1997).

Op-Eds, Blogs, Shorter Works

The Voting Rights Act Turns 50, UVA Lawyer 88 (2015).
The Real World: Why Judicial Philosophies Matter (with Richard C. Schragger), Slate (September 7, 2005).

Current Courses

All Courses

Civil Rights History From Plessy to Brown
Civil Rights Litigation
Constitutional Law
Equality and the Law
Poverty and the Constitution
Seminar in Ethical Values




The Dean’s State of the Law School, 2022-23

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