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Christopher Schmidt

Christopher Schmidt headshot

Faculty Fellow

Joint appointment

Associate Professor, Chicago-Kent College of Law


Ph.D., History of American Civilization, Harvard University; JD, Harvard Law School


Christopher Schmidt researches U.S. legal and constitutional history, with a focus on the relationship between intellectual history, social movements, and constitutional change in the twentieth century. His book on the student lunch counter sit-in movement of 1960-titled The Sit-Ins: Protest and Legal Change in the Civil Rights Era-will be published in early 2018 by the University of Chicago…

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Research focus

The intersection of social movement mobilization and constitutional change in recent American history; the ways in which constitutional claims emerge and develop outside the courts, and the effect of these extrajudicial claims on legal doctrine. Current research focuses on the egalitarian constitutionalism of the civil rights movement; and the libertarian constitutionalism that has gained traction with the rise of populist conservatism in recent decades.


Civil Rights: An American History 

This book project offers a history of how Americans have struggled over the meaning of the term civil rights from the Civil War through today. The work offers an explantion of a label initially…

Constructing Brown v. Board of Education: Ideology and Constitutional Change, 1944-2007

This book project examines how people have used-and more often than not misused-Brown and its history to advance claims about the meaning of constitutional equality, the impact of segregation, the…

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The Sit-Ins: Protest and Legal Change in The Civil Rights Era
University of Chicago Press
The Sit-Ins
The Oxford Research Encyclopedia of American History
“The Civilizing Hand of Law”: Defending the Legal Process in the Civil Rights Era
In Austin Sarat, ed., Rhetorical Process and Legal Judgments, Cambridge University Press

All publications »


Civil Rights: An American History
Feb 2017
Social Movements and Victory
Feb 2017
Exceptions in American Constitutional History
Sep 2016

All presentations »

Professional Service & Recognition

  • Editor, Law & Social Inquiry
  • Associate Dean for Faculty Development, Chicago-Kent College of Law 
  • Co-Director, Institute on the Supreme Court of the United States
  • Organizer, U.S. Legal History Roundtable, American Bar Foundation, 2013, 2014, 2017
  • Board of Directors, American Society for Legal History, 2016 – 2019
  • Faculty Leader, American Society for Legal History Student Research Colloquium, 2016, 2017
  • Winner, American Society for Legal History 2016 Surrency Prize (awarded annually for the best article published in Law and History Review
  • Chicago-Kent College of Law Excellence in Teaching Award, 2011
  • Winner, American Association of Law Schools 2014 Scholarly Paper Competition for Divided by Law: The Sit-Ins and the Role of the Courts in the Civil Rights Movement

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