Christopher W. Schmidt

Professor of Law, Co-Director of the Institute on the Supreme Court of the United States

A member of the Chicago-Kent faculty since 2008, Professor Schmidt teaches in the areas of constitutional law, legal history, comparative constitutional law, and sports law. He has written on a variety of topics, including the historical development of the Fourteenth Amendment, the history of Brown v. Board of Education, the Tea Party as a constitutional movement, how Supreme Court Justices communicate with the American people, and the rise of free agency in Major League Baseball. He has published in leading law reviews and peer-review journals, among them Constitutional Commentary, Cornell Law Review, Law and History Review, Northwestern University Law Review, and UCLA Law Review. His article Divided by Law: The Sit-Ins and the Role of the Courts in the Civil Rights Movement won the 2014 Association of American Law Schools' Scholarly Papers Competition and the 2016 American Society for Legal History Surrency Prize.

Professor Schmidt is the author of two books: The Sit-Ins: Protest and Legal Change in the Civil Rights Era (University of Chicago Press, 2018), and Civil Rights: An American History (Cambridge University Press, 2021). He is currently working on a new book project, a history of the U.S. Supreme Court and its relationship with the American people over the last century.

Professor Schmidt earned a J.D. from Harvard Law School, a Ph.D. in American studies and an M.A. in history from Harvard University, and a B.A. from Dartmouth College. Professor Schmidt is also a research professor at the American Bar Foundation, where he serves as the editor of Law & Social Inquiry, one of the leading peer-review journals in sociolegal studies.


J.D., Harvard Law School
Ph.D., Harvard University
M.A., Harvard University
B.A., Dartmouth College


Brown, History, and The Fourteenth Amendment, 97 Notre Dame Law Review 1477 (2022).

Thirteenth Amendment Echoes in Fourteenth Amendment Doctrine, 73 Hastings Law Journal 723 (2022).

Civil Rights in America: A History (Cambridge University Press, 2021).

Rights, Dignity, and Public Accommodations, 38 Law and History Review 599 ( 2020).

The Fourteenth Amendment and the Transformation of Civil Rights, 10 Journal of the Civil War Era 81 (2020). 

Cooper v. Aaron and Judicial Supremacy, 41 University of Arkansas at Little Rock Law Review 255 (2019)

The Sit-Ins: Protest and Legal Change in the Civil Rights Era (University of Chicago Press, 2018).

Section 5’s Forgotten Years: Congressional Power to Enforce the Fourteenth Amendment Before Katzenbach v. Morgan, 113 Northwestern University Law Review 47 (2018).

Legal History and the Problem of the Long Civil Rights Movement, 41 Law & Social Inquiry 1081 (2016) (review essay).

On Doctrinal Confusion: The Case of the State Action Doctrine, 2016 BYU Law Review 575.

The Civil Rights–Civil Liberties Divide, 12 Stanford Journal of Civil Rights & Civil Liberties 1 (2016).

Beyond Backlash: Conservatism and the Civil Rights Movement, 56 American Journal of Legal History 179 (2016).

Litigating Against the Civil Rights Movement, 86 University of Colorado Law Review 1173 (2015).

Divided by Law: The Sit-Ins and the Role of the Courts in the Civil Rights Movement, 33 Law and History Review 93 (2015) (winner of the 2016 American Society for Legal History Surrency Prize and the 2014 Association of American Law Schools Scholarly Paper Prize).

>> Search Professor Schmidt's publications on


Civil Rights and Discrimination; Constitutional Law; Legal History; US Supreme Court

Media Appearances

Author and Chicago-Kent Law Professor Reflects on 80th Anniversary of Sit-In at Kenwood Cafe

“Legal change does not make change on the ground, does not make social change. This is the lesson of history, certainly in the case of race relations,” says Christopher Schmidt, a professor of law at Chicago-Kent College of Law and author of “The Sit-Ins: Protest and Legal Change in the Civil Rights Era.” “But what we need, and what the sit-ins show us, is that when we have legal change in conjunction with social protest, then you can actually get changes on the ground.”

Hyde Park Herald