Before the Civil War, colonization schemes and black laws threatened to deport former slaves born in the United States. Birthright Citizens recovers the story of how African American activists remade national belonging through battles in legislatures, conventions, and courthouses. They faced formidable opposition, most notoriously from the US Supreme Court decision in Dred Scott. Still, Martha S. Jones explains, no single case defined their status. Former slaves studied law, secured allies, and conducted themselves like citizens, establishing their status through local, everyday claims. All along they argued that birth guaranteed their rights. With fresh archival sources and an ambitious reframing of constitutional law-making before the Civil War, Jones shows how the Fourteenth Amendment constitutionalized the birthright principle, and black Americans' aspirations were realized. Birthright Citizens tells how African American activists radically transformed the terms of citizenship for all Americans.
Table of Contents
Introduction: rights of colored men: debating citizenship in antebellum America; 1. Being a native, and free born: race and rights in Baltimore; 2. Threats of removal: colonization, emigration, and the borders of belonging; 3. Aboard the constitution: black sailors and citizenship at sea; 4. The city courthouse: everyday scenes of race and law; 5. Between the constitution and the discipline of the church: making congregants citizens; 6. By virtue of unjust laws: black laws and the reluctant performance of rights; 7. To sue and be sued: courthouse claims and the contours of citizenship; 8. Confronting Dred Scott: seeing citizenship from Baltimore city; 9. Rehearsals for reconstruction: new citizens in a new era; Epilogue: monuments to men.