Hailey Giczy (’09) has won the Raymond J. Cunningham Prize for the Best Article by an Undergraduate for her published senior thesis “The Bum Blockade: Los Angeles and the Great Depression.” The American Historical Association, the largest and most important organization of professional historians, offers the Raymond J. Cunningham Prize for the best article written by an undergraduate student and published in a history department journal. This prize is a major national award from the nation’s premier historical organization, evidence that the History program is a vital part of Chapman University’s rise to national prominence.
Hailey and her senior thesis mentor, Professor Leland Estes, will attend the American Historical Association’s annual awards banquet in Boston this coming January to receive the award. The winning author and the winning journal each receive a $200 prize.
Hailey’s article was published in the first issue of the History Department’s award-winning on-line historical journal Voces Novae. You can read the article in Voces Novae.
Hailey’s article had also previously won the Phi Alpha Theta Nels Andrew Cleven Prize, another prestigious national undergraduate award.
Her paper explores a little known aspect of Los Angeles History in the depths of the Depression. In 1936 the Chief of Police decided to erect a “bum blockade” both at home and on California’s borders to rid the city of dust bowl migrants and others thought to be undesirable, and to keep these sorts of people from coming in the first place. However, though it only lasted a month and drew the fire of many on the left, it nonetheless seems to have had a considerable popular backing. Hailey in fact argues that the blockade was indicative of a spirit in this state at the time to go to considerable and perhaps even unconstitutional lengths to preserve its “imagined” view of itself as a sort of middle class utopia against what was widely seen as tide of unwashed Okkies flooding in from the east.
Hailey did a considerable amount of primary research, and she was aided in this research by a special grant from the Chancellor’s Office. She used memoirs, newspapers, magazines, and also spent a considerable amount of time in the archives of the Los Angeles Police Department.