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Daniel Sharfstein

Professor of Law
Professor of History

Daniel Sharfstein’s scholarship focuses on the legal history of race in the United States. His first book, The Invisible Line: Three American Families and the Secret Journey from Black to White (Penguin Press, 2011), is a multigenerational history of three families of African descent who assimilated into white communities at different points in American history and in different parts of the South. A Booklist Editor’s Choice for 2011 and named as one of the Chicago Tribune’s favorite books of 2011, The Invisible Line won the J. Anthony Lukas Book Prize (2012), the William Nelson Cromwell Book Prize from the American Society for Legal History (2012), as well as the James Willard Hurst Prize (2012) of the Law and Society Association. Sharfstein is currently at work on a book that explores the aftermath and legacies of Reconstruction in the United States. Sharfstein was awarded a John Simon Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship for his project, “Thunder in the Mountains: The Clash of Two American Legends, Oliver Otis Howard and Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce.” Sharfstein was one of 175 scholars appointed from a pool of nearly 3,000 applicants “on the basis of impressive achievement in the past and exceptional promise for future accomplishment.”

For his research on the color line in the American South, Professor Sharfstein has received an Alphonse Fletcher Sr. Fellowship as well as a National Endowment for the Humanities fellowship. His article “Atrocity, Entitlement, and Personhood in Property” (Virginia Law Review, 2012) was awarded the Association of American Law Schools’ 2012 Scholarly Paper Prize, and his articles have also appeared in the Yale Law Journal and Minnesota Law Review, as well as the New York Times, Slate, American Prospect, and Legal Affairs. Sharfstein was the inaugural recipient of the Raoul Berger Visiting Fellowship in Legal History at Harvard Law School, and prior to joining Vanderbilt’s law faculty in 2007, he was a Samuel I. Golieb Fellow in Legal History at New York University School of Law.

Sharfstein teaches courses on American legal history, the legal history of race in the United States, and property law at Vanderbilt University Law School, where he has been honored, twice, with the Hall-Hartman Outstanding Professor Award.