Dylan C. Penningroth | Before the Movement: The Hidden History of Black Civil Rights

As part of our online Inside the Center series, Dylan C. Penningroth, a 2013–14 SHC fellow, will discuss his latest book, Before the Movement The Hidden History of Black Civil Rights.

Through an empirically-rich historical investigation into the changing meaning of civil rights, Before the Movement seeks to change the way we think about Black history itself. Weaving together a variety of sources—from state and federal appellate courts to long-forgotten documents found in county courthouse basements, from family interviews to church records—the book tries to reveal how African Americans thought about, talked about, and used the law long before the marches of the 1960s. In a world that denied their constitutional rights, Black people built lives for themselves through common law “rights of everyday use.” Before the Movement recovers a rich vision of Black life―a vision allied with, yet distinct from, the freedom struggle


About the Author

Before the Movement

Dylan C. Penningroth is a professor of law and history at the University of California–Berkeley, currently serving as Associate Dean of the Program in Jurisprudence and Social Policy at Berkeley Law. He specializes in African American history and legal history. His first book, The Claims of Kinfolk: African American Property and Community in the Nineteenth-Century South, published by the University of North Carolina Press, won the 2004 Civil War and Reconstruction Book Award from the Organization of American Historians. His articles have appeared in the University of Pennsylvania Law Review, the Journal of American History, and the American Historical Review. Penningroth has held fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Science Foundation, the Stanford Humanities Center, and the MacArthur Foundation. 

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