“At Berkeley, there’s a constellation of faculty coming together in my fields of interest,” he said. “When you look at what the university offers in terms of legal history, and more specifically in American and British legal history related to race, that’s hard to beat.”
Credit: MacArthur Foundation
In addition to his duties at Northwestern, Penningroth has been a research professor at the American Bar Foundation since 2007. There, he coordinated weekly seminars and other programming while sharing ideas with other socio-legal experts.
“That experience opened my eyes to what you can do when examining law and legal foundations with the tools of a historian,” he said. “It brought me into this law school universe.”
His first book, The Claims of Kinfolk: African American Property and Community in the Nineteenth-Century South, won the Organization of American Historians’ Avery Craven Prize. Penningroth’s many other honors include a prestigious MacArthur Foundation fellowship.
Currently, he is working on a study of African Americans’ encounters with law from the Civil War to the civil rights movement—which examines the practical meaning of legal rights for black life.Penningroth joins a large and growing community of legal historians at UC Berkeley, including Mark Brilliant, Robin Einhorn, Stephanie Jones-Rogers, David Lieberman, Laurent Mayali, Rebecca McLennan, Harry Scheiber, Chris Tomlins, and Amanda Tyler (and me).