Bruce Dierenfield

Professor Emeritus

Ph.D., University of Virginia
M.A., University of Virginia
B.A., St. Olaf College

CT 607

Bruce Dierenfield has long been interested in the history of American race relations, and has written a popular textbook on the civil rights movement and another on African-American leadership since enslavement. As Peter Canisius Distinguished Teaching Professor, Dierenfield organized the “African-American Experience,” led student trips to West Africa and the Deep South, and invited distinguished historians and many influential activists of the 1960s to speak on campus. Dierenfield is currently updating his civil rights text and conducting research on the Rev. George Lee, who was murdered by white supremacists in 1955 for leading a voting-rights campaign in the Mississippi Delta. In the All-College Honors Program, which he directs, Dr. Dierenfield teaches or team teaches courses on “New Perspectives on the Civil Rights Movement” and “African-American Lives and Culture.” Most recently, he taught a Core Capstone course on “Black Lives Matter,” which included speakers from Buffalo’s Black Lives Matter affiliate, Just Resisting Buffalo, and Showing Up for Racial Justice, as well as an African-American police officer from Buffalo’s East Side. Dierenfield’s teaching methods involve PowerPoint presentations, internet clips, and co-curricular events, such as guest lectures and visits to musical or theatrical venues. Classes invariably begin by considering relevant current events to understand the recent, often troubled, past.


  • Kenneth L. Koessler Distinguished Faculty Award
  • Peter Canisius Distinguished Teaching Professorship
  • Distinguished Lecturer, Organization of American Historians
  • DiGamma Honor Society + Alpha Sigma Nu Society
  • David J. Langum, Sr. Prize in American Legal History or Biography
  • Alpha Sigma Nu Book Award for Professional Studies
  • Senior Fulbright Scholar Award (Germany)
  • Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Award
  • Phi Beta Kappa


7 Books

Separating Church and State: How the Minnesota Affiliate of the American Civil Liberties Union Became the Nation's Leader in Religious Liberty (forthcoming)

Disability Rights and Religious Liberty: The Story Behind Zobrest v. Catalina Foothills School District (coauthor)

A History of African-American Leadership (coauthor)
The Battle over School Prayer: How Engel v. Vitale Changed America
The Civil Rights Movement
Keeper of the Rules: Congressman Howard W. Smith of Virginia
The Federal Role and Activities in Energy Research and Development, 1946-1980 (coauthor)

4 Book chapters
9 Journal articles
29 Entries
27 Book reviews