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Birthright Citizens: A History of Race and…
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Birthright Citizens: A History of Race and Rights in Antebellum America (edition 2018)

by Martha S. Jones (Author)

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673317,996 (3.8)2
"Before the Civil War, colonization schemes and black laws threatened to deport former slaves born in 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 U.S. 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"--… (more)
Member:jpbowes
Title:Birthright Citizens: A History of Race and Rights in Antebellum America
Authors:Martha S. Jones (Author)
Info:Cambridge University Press (2018), 266 pages
Collections:Your library
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Birthright Citizens: A History of Race and Rights in Antebellum America (Studies in Legal History) by Martha S. Jones

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Uses stories of Baltimore’s free Blacks to explore the complicated ways in which they used citizenship claims and rights claims to reinforce each other, before and even sometimes after Chief Justice Taney declared in the Dred Scott case that Blacks could not be citizens. For example, they pointed out that white women were citizens even though white women couldn’t vote or hold property (in many places) by themselves. Black people filed petitions; they litigated; they made claims in the papers and in the streets. Those tactics didn’t always succeed, and there wasn’t always agreement about the best course of action (including leaving Maryland for the North, or Canada, or even Liberia), but they did claim the status of rights-bearing people. ( )
  rivkat | Jul 23, 2021 |
Had been pretty excited to read this. I had been under the impression that it was about birthright citizenship in the US. What I didn't realize was that was a super specific look at the rights of former slaves throughout history from the courts to legislatures to personal conduct in their arguments that their birth made them citizens.

The book is obviously well researched but it's also a pretty specific topic. I honestly felt like this was a thesis converted to book form, which made it tough to read. I'm not sure how much of this is from my own personal lack of knowledge on the matter but I also really didn't think it was very well written, either.

For the right audience it could be an incredible resources or at least give a broader history.

For me, a library borrow was definitely best. ( )
  HoldMyBook | Feb 19, 2020 |
Very engaging reading. Martha Jones uses antebellum Baltimore with a sizable and growing population of free African-Americans as the focus of her work. In that cosmopolitan trade center in the border slave state of Maryland, she looks at how free blacks carried themselves as rights-bearing, using the law to secure types of legal rights in the face of one of the strongest state movements to deport free blacks outside the country and to encourage emigration with restrictive and disabling black laws. While considering the civic performance of everyday free blacks, Jones also attends to the larger context of the world of legal thought where black abolitionists and other’s laid claim on a theoretical basis to citizenship based on native birth. The quest for recognition that citizenship was theirs by virtue of native birth, of course, was only vouchsafed with enactment of the 14th Amendment of the US Constitution after the Civil War.

If I have any hesitations about the book, it is the lingering suspicion that upon occasion it seems to me Jones hangs rather too much on slender reeds. Jones rigorously searches for further background on some of the situations she writes about, but there is often little more to go on than the barebones of legal pleadings and rulings in trial courts and commissions. Perhaps the mere usage of the courts to gain licenses or redress for injuries or to protect property is sufficient to support Jones’s thesis that “free” African-Americans used the law and the courthouse as if they had rights that white people were bound to respect before, during, and after the Dred Scott decision purported to (or was interpreted as) settle the question of their citizenship status.

All in all, an enlightening read marred only by some poor copy-editing thar failed to supply missing words and correct misspellings. ( )
  johnjmeyer | Jul 4, 2019 |
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"Before the Civil War, colonization schemes and black laws threatened to deport former slaves born in 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 U.S. 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"--

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