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Dylan C. Penningroth

Dylan C. Penningroth headshot

Affiliated Research Professor

Joint appointment

University of California Berkeley


BA, Yale University Ph.D., History, Johns Hopkins University

Curriculum vitae


Dylan C. Penningroth specializes in African American history and in U.S. socio-legal history. His first book, The Claims of Kinfolk: African American Property and Community in the Nineteenth-Century…

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Research focus

African American history, comparative histories of slavery and emancipation, and socio-legal history, with a particular focus on family relations, the rise of the independent black church, migration, the interaction between legal categories and popular conceptions such as respectability, race, and “slavish origins”; the cultural, social, and legal legacy of slavery in colonial Ghana and the United States


Law for a Gospel Church: African American Religion and Legal Culture, 1865-1970

Latest finding: Mar 10, 2017

Local Courts and African American Life, 1865-1970

Latest finding: Mar 10, 2017
This book project seeks to describe and analyze African Americans’ participation in law at the local level from the Civil War to the beginnings of the modern civil rights movement. It combines…
Legacies of Slavery in Early-twentieth-century Gold Coast Africa
Latest finding: Jan 24, 2008
The histories of Ghana and the U.S. South during the nineteenth century were significantly shaped by debates about the claims that slaves and their descendants made to kinship and to the products of…

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“The Claims of Slaves and Ex-Slaves to Family and Property: A Transatlantic Comparison”
American Historical Review
“African American Divorce in Virginia and Washington, D.C., 1865-1930”
Journal of Family History
The Claims of Kinfolk: African American Property and Community in the Nineteenth Century South
University of North Carolina Press

All publications »


“The Preacher's Wife: Law, Divorce, and Respectability among African Americans, 1865-1930”
Dec 2007
Slaves’ Claims to Family and Property in Southern Gold Coast and the U.S. South
Sep 2007
The Idea of Ancestry: Family Land and Local Courts in the Jim Crow South
Jan 2006

All presentations »

Professional Service & Recognition

  • Stanford Humanities Center Fellowship, 2013-14
  • Member, Hurst Memorial Fund Committee, American Society for Legal History, 2013-15
  • National Science Foundation grant, 2009-12
  • Organizing Committee, Chicago-area U.S. Legal History Roundtable
  • EBSCOhost: America: History and Life Award of the Organization of American Historians (article prize for "The Claims of Slaves and Ex-slaves...: A Transatlantic Comparison") 
  • Member, Editorial Board, Journal of American History
  • National Endowment for the Humanities Fellow, Newberry Library
  • Wayne V. Jones Research Professorship, 2008-10
  • Teaching Award, Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, Northwestern
  • Member, Surrency Prize Committee, American Society for Legal History
  • Distinguished Lecturer, Organization of American Historians 
  • Avery Craven Prize, Organization of American Historians 
  • Allan Nevins Prize, Society of American Historians 
  • Fellow, MacArthur Foundation
  • Faculty Senate, Northwestern University
  • Legal Studies Faculty Advisory Board, Northwestern University
  • Associated Student Government Faculty Honor Roll
  • Planning Committee, Northwestern University History Department
  • Graduate Affairs Committee, Northwestern University History Department


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