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 several publications:
- "'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)
- "'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), awarded the 2017 George and Ann Richards Prize.
- "Born Free in the Master's House: Children and Gradual Emancipation in the Early American North," in Child Slavery before and after Emancipation (Cambridge University Press, 2017).
She is currently working on an essay examining ordinary citizens petitioning for rights and resources in the early nineteenth century, and another essay exploring Congressman James Tallmadge, Jr. and the Missouri Crisis.
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 from 2014 to 2016. 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, the American Revolution, 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.
In 2020, she was awarded the Richard S. Dunn Award for Distinguished Teaching.
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.
Ph.D. University of Chicago
M.St. University of Oxford
A.B. Harvard University