Birthright Citizens: One Man's Journey from Sailor to Citizen in Antebellum America

Tuesday, April 10, 2018, 7:00 p.m.
Venue: ECSS 2.102
Admission: Free
Season: 2017-18


Martha S. Jones, Society of Black Alumni Presidential Professor and Professor of History, Johns Hopkins University


African American activists radically transformed the terms of citizenship for all Americans.​​ 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. The life of George Hackett, born free in 1808 Baltimore illustrates how black Americans studied law, secured allies, and conducted themselves like citizens, establishing their status through local courthouse claims. They argued that birth guaranteed their rights. When in 1868 the Fourteenth Amendment added the birthright principle to the Constitution, the aspirations of black Americans like Hackett were realized. 

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