Sam Erman

Jul 25, 2019

Almost Citizens

Puerto Rico, the U.S. Constitution, and Empire

Cambridge University Press 2018

purchase at bookshop.org Sam Erman is the author of Almost Citizens: Puerto Rico, the U.S. Constitution, and Empire, published by Cambridge University Press in 2018. Almost Citizens recounts the story of how Puerto Rico came to be part of the United States empire at the turn of the 20th Century. More specifically, Erman looks at how Puerto Ricans, U.S. legislators, presidents, judges, and a bevy of other people debated how Puerto Rico would be incorporated into the United States. The nexus for this debate centered on whether or not Puerto Ricans would be full citizens of the United States. Erman’s study illustrates the myriad of ways in which constitutional change occurs outside of the judiciary, showing how everyday people contributed to a radical shift in constitutional meanings of terms such as citizenship, alien, territory, and empire. The debates he shows within his book had a long lasting impact for the island and its people; an impact which is still felt today. Sam Erman is Professor of Law at the University of Southern California, where he studies constitutional law, legal history, and the Supreme Court.

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Derek Litvak

Derek Litvak is a PhD candidate at the University of Maryland—College Park. His dissertation, "The Specter of Black Citizens: Race, Slavery, and Citizenship in the Early United States," examines how citizenship was used to both bolster the institution of slavery and exclude Black Americans from the body politic.

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