22 June 2018

BOOK: Martha S. JONES, Birthright Citizens : A History of Race and Rights in Antebellum America (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018). ISBN 9781107150348, £ 79.99

Later this month, Cambridge University Press will publish the E-Book of “Birthright Citizens - A History of Race and Rights in Antebellum America”. The paperback/hardback (due August 2018) can be pre-ordered here.


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.


Martha S. Jones, The Johns Hopkins University
Martha S. Jones is the Society of Black Alumni Presidential Professor and Professor of History at The Johns Hopkins University. She was formerly a Presidential Bicentennial Professor at the University of Michigan, and was a founding director of the Michigan Law School Program in Race, Law and History. She is the author of All Bound Up Together: The Woman Question in African American Public Culture, 1830-1900 (2007) and co-editor of Toward an Intellectual History of Black Women (2015).


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.

More information here

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