A History of Race and Rights in Antebellum America
Cambridge University Press 2018
The contemporary moment has brought to the forefront the question of what constitutes an American citizen. The legal question in popular understanding stems from the Fourteenth Amendment and its use of birthright citizenship as a central identifier of what makes a citizen. In Dr. Martha S. Jones’ newest book, Birthright Citizens: A History of Race and Rights in Antebellum America (Cambridge University Press, 2018) skillfully demonstrates that by the time the amendment was passed, Black Baltimoreans had already personally conceived of themselves as birthright citizens because of their lived experiences in the antebellum era. By using the country’s largest free Black population as a proxy to discuss the performance of citizenship by Black Baltimoreans, Dr. Jones re-conceptualizes our understanding of what the politics of belonging meant for this very important antebellum Black community.
Adam McNeil is a PhD student in History, African American Public Humanities Initiative and Colored Conventions Project Fellow at the University of Delaware. He can be reached on Twitter @CulturedModesty.