The name Common Railers comes from the Jim Crow laws of the nineteenth and twentieth century United States, laws which sought to preserve segregation and disenfranchisement of African Americans by defining them as inferior to whites. When whites sought to keep African Americans out of their communities, they would refuse them work, then accuse them of vagrancy. "Common railers and brawlers" was one definition of vagrancy written into these laws. Here is an example from Jupiter Inlet Colony, Florida:
VAGRANTS. All rogues and vagabonds, idle and dissolute persons, tramps who go about begging, stubborn children, runaways, common drunkards, common night walkers, thieves, pilferers, lewd, wanton and lascivious persons in speech or behavior, common railers and brawlers, persons who neglect their calling or employment, or who have no visible means of support, and those who do not provide for themselves or their families, and all other idle and disorderly persons shall be considered vagrants.
The term vagrant and its definitions were vague enough to allow charges to be brought with evidence no more than a white person's word. A railer is one who “expresses objections or criticisms in bitter, harsh, or abusive language," and so any complaint when an African American person was approached was a convenient excuse for his or her arrest. The decisive court case finally setting aside such vagrancy laws did not come until 1972's Papachristou versus Jacksonville.
Vagrancy laws were part of what were called Black Codes, established after the US Civil War by southern states to attempt to maintain segregation and avoid granting civil rights to African Americans. The Civil Rights Act and Fourteenth Amendment to the US Constitution were responses to these Codes. The Mississippi Black Codes are perhaps the most well-known example.
Such laws as these were not present only in the southern United States. They existed as far away as Hawaii, and, as illustrated below, were part of the General Laws of Massachusetts:
PART IV. CRIMES, PUNISHMENTS AND PROCEEDINGS IN CRIMINAL CASES
TITLE I. CRIMES AND PUNISHMENTS
CHAPTER 272. CRIMES AGAINST CHASTITY, MORALITY, DECENCY AND GOOD ORDER
Chapter 272: Section 53. Penalty for certain offenses
Section 53. Common night walkers, common street walkers, both male and female, common railers and brawlers, persons who with offensive and disorderly acts or language accost or annoy persons of the opposite sex, lewd, wanton and lascivious persons in speech or behavior, idle and disorderly persons, disturbers of the peace, keepers of noisy and disorderly houses, and persons guilty of indecent exposure may be punished by imprisonment in a jail or house of correction for not more than six months, or by a fine of not more than two hundred dollars, or by both such fine and imprisonment.