Sarah L. H. Gronningsater

Sarah L. H. Gronningsater

Assistant Professor of History

18th- and 19th-century U.S.; political, legal, social, and constitutional history


College Hall 216 C

Sarah Gronningsater is a historian of the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century United States, with a particular interest in slavery and abolition. She works at the intersections of legal, political, constitutional, and social history. 

Her current book project is The Arc of Abolition: The Children of Gradual Emancipation and the Origins of National Freedom (under contract with the University of Pennsylvania Press). The Arc of Abolition explores the long and legally-oriented transition from slavery to freedom in New York from the first widespread Quaker emancipations in the 1750s to the passage of the Reconstruction Amendments at the close of the Civil War.The Arc of Abolition is particularly concerned with the lives, politics, and legal efforts of the “children of gradual emancipation”—the generation of black children born into quasi-freedom in the years after the American Revolution.

She is the author of "'On Behalf of His Race and the Lemmon Slaves': Louis Napoleon, Northern Black Legal Culture, and the Politics of Sectional Crisis," Journal of the Civil War Era (June 2017), which was awarded the 2017 George and Ann Richards Prize. She is also the author of a chapter on northern U.S. gradual abolition in the edited collection, Child Slavery before and after Emancipation (Cambridge University Press, 2017). Most recently, she published "'Expressly Recognized by Our Election Laws': Certificates of Freedom and the Multiple Fates of Black Citizenship in the Early Republic," William and Mary Quarterly (July 2018). She is currently working on an essay dealing with the Missouri Crisis, and another that considers how people practiced formal politics without the vote in the early nineteenth century, with a particular emphasis on the practice of petitioning.  

Gronningsater has received a number of prizes and fellowships. In 2015, she received two dissertation awards: the Manuscript Prize from the Society for Historians of the Early American Republic and the Cromwell Dissertation Prize from the American Society for Legal History. She also received the 2012 Kathryn T. Preyer Scholar Award from the American Society for Legal History and the 2010 Memphis State Eight Best Paper Prize from the Graduate Association of African American History. She was the recipient of the Hanna Holborn Gray Advanced Fellowship at the University of Chicago in 2012. From 2014 to 2016, she was a Barra Postdoctoral Fellow at the McNeil Center for Early American Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. In 2017-2018, she was an Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Fellow at the New-York Historical Society. 

Gronningsater loves teaching both undergraduate and graduate students. She offers courses in early American history, the long nineteenth century, slavery and abolition in the Atlantic World, the politics of reform movements, legal and constitutional history, the Civil War, women’s history, and the history of American baseball. 

She received an A.B. from Harvard University, an M.St. from the University of Oxford, and a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago. 

Office Hours
T 1:30PM-2:30PM

Ph.D. University of Chicago

M.St. University of Oxford

A.B. Harvard University