Dylan Penningroth, 34
Teaching Position: Associate Professor of History, Northwestern University
Area of Research: African American history, with special interests in the history of slavery and emancipation, property and family, and African Studies.
Education: Ph.D., Johns Hopkins University, 2000
Major Publications: The Claims of Kinfolk: African American Property and Community in the Nineteenth-Century South, University of North Carolina Press, 2003 (The John Hope Franklin Series in African American History and Culture).
Book Chapter; “My People, My People: The Dynamics of Community in Southern Slavery,” 166-76, in New Studies in the History of American Slavery, ed. Edward E. Baptist and Stephanie M.H. Camp, (University of Georgia Press, 2006).
Awards: Penningroth’s The Claims of Kinfolk: African American Property and Community in the Nineteenth-Century South won the 2004 Avery O. Craven Award from the Organization of American Historians.
Penningroth’s dissertation “Claiming Kin and Property: Black Life in the Nineteenth-Century South” won the Allan Nevins Prize of the Society of American Historians in 2000.
Other awards include; Distinguished Lecturer, Organization of American Historians (2005-08); Lane Professor in the Humanities, Northwestern (2006); Pre-doctoral Fellowship, Carter G. Woodson Institute for African and African American Studies, University of Virginia (1998-99); Huggins-Quarles Award, Organization of American Historians (1998); and W. M. Keck Foundation and Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Fellowship, Huntington Library Summer (1998).
Additional Info: Formerly Assistant Professor of History, University of Virginia, (1999-2002).
Consultant for Teaching American History institute, Evanston, IL. (Summer 2005); Referee for Journal of Southern History, Oxford Univ. Press, Cambridge Univ. Press.
My specialty is the history of black life during and after slavery. During graduate school I often talked with my relatives about my research, and one day my Uncle Craig handed me a cassette. It turned out that back in 1976, he had taken a tape recorder with him to go see our great-uncle, Thomas Holcomb, who had migrated up to New Jersey from Farmville, Virginia in 1927 or so (and who used to help the 5-year-old me chase rabbits). And when I listened to the tape, I heard Uncle Tom talking about “slavery time people”: it dawned on me that his father, and many of the people he grew up with, were freedpeople.And the stories he told were amazing-not because they did anything exceptional but because they did it at all, and they were my family. He talked about moving up North (“we couldn’t make it farming”) yet holding onto the farm anyway. He talked about how his father, who was named Jackson Hall, used to run away from his master and hide out in the Great Dismal Swamp.
One story in particular made a big impression on me. At that time, I was researching the legally strange phenomenon of slaves who owned property, and was wondering whether I should try looking outside the Lowcountry, where scholars had shown it was common. On the tape, Uncle Craig asked if he remembered any stories about the Civil War. He did. Late in the war, Jackson Hall ran into a gang of Confederate soldiers who wanted him to take them across the river in his boat. They were running from the Union army in Virginia, probably desperate and definitely well-armed. So what happened then? Uncle Craig asked. Well, Uncle Tom said, they paid him. It was just the inspiration I needed.
By Dylan Penningroth
About Dylan Penningroth