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Historian Dylan Penningroth Named MacArthur Fellow

Historian specializes in African-American history and U.S. socio-legal history

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October 2, 2012 | by Hilary Hurd Anyaso
Dylan Penningroth
Dylan Penningroth of the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences examines shifting concepts of property ownership and kinship in order to shed light on long-obscured aspects of African-American life under slavery following abolition. Photo courtesy of the John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

EVANSTON, Ill. --- Dylan Penningroth, associate professor of history in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences at Northwestern University, has been named a 2012 MacArthur Fellow, an honor that is bestowed with a $500,000 “no conditions” award.

VIDEO: Watch Penningroth describe his research.

Penningroth –- one of 23 MacArthur Fellows named today (Oct. 2) by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation for “exceptional originality in and dedication to their creative pursuits” –- specializes in African-American history, comparative histories of slavery and emancipation, and socio-legal history. His research has focused on the history of the black family and community life, the ownership of property by slaves and ideologies of slavery in the U.S. and Ghana.

Penningroth said he was stunned to receive the phone call that he had received the award.

“I’m extremely grateful for this recognition, and looking forward to writing up my research,” he said.

He is affiliated with the University’s department of African American studies and holds a joint appointment as research professor at the American Bar Foundation.

His first book, “The Claims of Kinfolk: African American Property and Community in the Nineteenth-Century South” (University of North Carolina Press, 2003) won the Avery Craven Prize from the Organization of American Historians. His articles have appeared in the Journal of American History, American Historical Review, and Journal of Family History.

Penningroth’s awards have included the Organization of American Historians’ Huggins-Quarles, a National Science Foundation Award, a Weinberg College Teaching Award and several other honors. In 2011 he was named a McCormick Professor of Teaching Excellence.

He is currently working on a study of African-Americans’ encounter with law from the Civil War to World War II. Combining legal and social history, the study explores the practical meaning of legal rights for black social, cultural and religious life. His next project is a study of the legacy of slavery in colonial Ghana.