How Do Vagrancy Laws Affect African Americans

1200 Words5 Pages
The law is meant to protect and serve Americans, until those in power use it against lower social classes. Time states, “As the evocative language of these laws suggests, the crime of vagrancy had long historical roots. Since the 16th century, vagrancy laws had been used in England to uphold hierarchy and social order (Goluboff).” For African Americans, these laws were created and used against them to incarcerate them. Seven Guitars by August Wilson historically demonstrates how vagrancy laws and systemic racism effected African Americans. Throughout the play characters such as Floyd and Canewell, express their struggle with police and a system that constantly manipulates them with unjust arrests and unfair payment. Vagrant is a term used to describe a person without visible means of support. Vagrancy laws were created to incriminate people who were also possibly loitering, participating in prostitution and public intoxication. The problem with these laws is that the police were prejudice when arresting people for vagrancy. In 1948, before the Civil Rights Movement, when Seven Guitars took…show more content…
Floyd is a musician trying to make his way through a contract under T.L. Hall in Chicago. He has travelled back and forth in order to achieve his dream of becoming a blues musician like Muddy Waters. Floyd says, “Seem like everybody in the world in Chicago. That’s the only place for a black man to be” (Wilson 16). Floyd dreams of becoming a successful black man, however, in trying to pursue his dreams all odds are against him and his band members. Floyd says, “You don’t have to be in Chicago for them to arrest you for nothing. They arrested me in Pittsburgh. I ain’t done nothing but walk down the street” (Wilson 28). African Americans were targeted in every city by the vagrancy laws. Floyd pushes aside his fears and pushes to reach his dreams as a musician despite the
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