Kristin O'Brassill-Kulfan: High School Teachers Institute
Friday, February 05, 2021, 09:00am - 02:30pm
Vagrants and Vagabonds: Povery and Mobility in the Early American Republic
February 5, 2021, 9am-2:30pm
Kristin O'Brassill-Kulfan, Coordinator & Instructor of Public History, Rutgers University
This workshop will explore the history of the criminalization of homelessness in the United States. Focusing on the experiences of people classified in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries as "vagrants" and "paupers", we will work through the legal and social contexts in which systems of welfare and punishment operated. We will consider issues of freedom of movement, slavery, race, class, gender, immigration, and labor during the first several decades of New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and New York's existence. Through case studies, demographic data, and hands-on work with primary sources from almshouses, jails, and legal officials in the early nineteenth century, we'll lay out the case for arguing that the policing of vagrancy and the mobility of people experiencing poverty were key functions of local and state municipal authority in the early American republic.