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 host, with Vice Dean Leslie Kendrick, 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 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


Vagrant Nation: Police Power, Constitutional Change, and the Making of the 1960s (Oxford University Press, 2016).

Civil Rights Stories (editor with Myriam Gilles) (Foundation Press, 2008).

The Lost Promise of Civil Rights (Harvard University Press, 2007).

Articles and Book Chapters:

“United States Vagrancy Laws” (with Adam Sorensen), in Timothy J. Gilfoyle, ed., 2 The Oxford Encyclopedia of American Urban History 1350 (Oxford University Press, 2019).

“What Makes Hartog Hartog: Introduction to a Symposium on the Work of Dirk Hartog,” 44 Law & Soc. Inquiry 491 (2019).

“Foreword: One Year After Charlottesville: Replacing the Resurgence of Racism With Reconciliation,” 105 Va. L. Rev. 263 (2019).

“Where Do We Go from Here?,” in Louis P. Nelson & Claudrena N. Harold, eds., Charlottesville 2017: The Legacy of Race and Inequity 82 (University of Virginia Press, 2018).

“Writing Vagrant Nation,” 43 Law & Soc. Inquiry 1686 (2018).

“A Tribute to Gordon Hylton” 104 Va. L. Rev. 843 (2018).

“Obama’s Court?” (with Richard Schragger), in Julian E. Zelizer, ed., The Presidency of Barack Obama: A First Historical Assessment 78 (Princeton University Press, 2018).

“Panel Discussion on Saving the Neighborhood: Part II,” 56 Ariz. L. Rev. Syllabus 29 (2014).

“Lawyers, Law, and the New Civil Rights History,” 126 Harv. L. Rev. 2312 (2013) (reviewing Kenneth W. Mack, Representing the Race: The Creation of the Civil Rights Lawyer (2012)).
HeinOnline (PDF)

“Dispatch from the Supreme Court Archives: Vagrancy, Abortion, and What the Links Between Them Reveal About the History of Fundamental Rights,” 62 Stan. L. Rev. 1361 (2010).
SSRN | HeinOnline (PDF)

“The Thirteenth Amendment and a New Deal for Civil Rights,” in Alexander Tsesis, ed., The Promises of Liberty: The History and Contemporary Relevance of the Thirteenth Amendment 119 (Columbia University Press, 2010)

The Lost Promise of Civil Rights, Historically Speaking, vol. VIII (2007).

Book Review, 27 Law & Hist. Rev. 222 (2009) (reviewing Nancy MacLean, Freedom Is Not Enough: The Opening of the American Workplace (2006)).
SSRN | HeinOnline (PDF)

“Civil Rights History Before, and Beyond, Brown,” in Why the Local Matters: Federalism, Localism, and Public Interest Advocacy 11 (Liman Public Interest Program at Yale Law School and the National State Attorneys General Program at Columbia Law School, 2009).

“The Thirteenth Amendment in Historical Perspective,” 11 U. Pa. J. Const. L. 1451 (2009).
SSRN | HeinOnline (PDF)

“National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP),” in Eric Arnesen, ed., 2 Encyclopedia of U.S. Labor and Working-Class History 938 (Routledge, 2007).

“Peonage,” in Eric Arnesen, ed., 3 Encyclopedia of U.S. Labor and Working-Class History 1067 (Routledge, 2007).

“Workers’ Defense League,” in Eric Arnesen, ed., 3 Encyclopedia of U.S. Labor and Working-Class History 1527 (Routledge, 2007).

“Brown v. Board of Education and the Lost Promise of Civil Rights,” in Myriam Gilles and Risa Goluboff, eds., Civil Rights Stories 25 (Foundation Press, 2008).

“Peonage,” in David S. Tanenhaus, ed., 4 Encyclopedia of the Supreme Court of the United States 32 (Macmillan, 2008).

“Race, Labor and the Thirteenth Amendment in the 1940s Department of Justice,” 38 U. Tol. L. Rev. 883 (2007).
HeinOnline (PDF)

“Deaths Greatly Exaggerated,” 24 Law & Hist. Rev. 201 (2006).
SSRN | HeinOnline (PDF)

“‘Let Economic Equality Take Care of Itself’: The NAACP, Labor Litigation, and the Making of Civil Rights in the 1940s,” 52 UCLA L. Rev. 1393 (2005).
SSRN | HeinOnline (PDF)

“Vernon Lawhorn, Thomas James Buchner, and the Green Brothers: Reverse Migration in World War II,” in Eric Arnesen, ed., The Human Tradition in Labor History 193 (SR Books, 2003).

“‘We Live’s in a Free House Such as It Is’: Class and the Creation of Modern Civil Rights,” 151 U. Penn. L. Rev. 1977 (2003).
SSRN | HeinOnline (PDF)

“A Road Not Taken: The Thirteenth Amendment and the Lost Origins of Civil Rights,” 50 Duke L.J. 1609 (2001), reprinted in Civil Rights Litigation and Attorney Fees Annual Handbook (Steven Saltzman ed. 2002).
HeinOnline (PDF)

“Won’t You Please Help Me Get My Son Home?: Peonage, Patronage, and Protest in the World War II Urban South,” 24 Law & Soc. Inquiry 777 (1999).
HeinOnline (PDF)

“The Historian as Peace Broker in the Legal Academy’s Culture Wars: The Lessons of  Sea Island Civil Rights for a Theory of Legal Instrumentalism,” 5 J. S. Legal Hist. 33 (1997).
HeinOnline (PDF)

Book Note, “Reckoning with Race and Criminal Justice” (reviewing Jerome G. Miller, Search and Destroy: African-American Males in the Criminal Justice System), 106 Yale L.J. 2299 (1997).
HeinOnline (PDF)

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




Dean Risa Goluboff Welcomes Class of 2024

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