Risa L. 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 nationally 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 also co-editor (with Myriam Gilles) of Civil Rights Stories (Foundation Press, 2008), and the author of numerous shorter works.

Goluboff has been quoted or cited by The New York Times, Time, The Atlantic and more, and she has appeared on PBS documentaries and the popular radio podcast “BackStory.” Her commentaries frequently appear in Slate.

Goluboff is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Law Institute. In 2008, Goluboff received the Law School’s Carl McFarland Award for excellence in faculty scholarship, and in 2011 the University of Virginia's All-University Teaching Award. From 2011 to 2016, she directed the University’s J.D.-M.A. in History Program. She also holds appointments as Professor of History in the Corcoran Department of History, Faculty Affiliate at the Carter G. Woodson Institute for African-American and African Studies, and Faculty Senior Fellow at the Miller Center. Goluboff has served as a visiting professor at the London School of Economics, Columbia, Chicago and New York University law schools and a distinguished lecturer for the Organization of American Historians.  

Prior to 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:

"Writing Vagrant Nation," 43 Law & Soc. Inquiry 1686 (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).

“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).

“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 Department of Justice and the Thirteenth Amendment," in Alexander Tsessis, ed.,The Promises of Liberty: Thirteenth Amendment Abolitionism (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)

"NAACP," "Peonage," "Workers' Defense League," in Eric Arnesen, ed., Encyclopedia of U.S. Labor and Working-Class History (Routledge,1st ed. 2007, 2d ed. 2008).

"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., Encyclopedia of the Supreme Court of the United States (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)

"The Unusual Journey of Vernon Lawhorn, Sam Austin, and the Green Brothers: Reverse Migration, Agricultural Work, and Rights Consciousness in World War II," in Eric Arnesen, ed., The Human Tradition in Labor History (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




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