Birthright Citizens


Forthcoming in fall 2018 from Cambridge University Press and the Studies in Legal History series.

Birthright Citizens tells how 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 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 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, fulfilling the long-held aspirations of African Americans.


April 19, 2018.            University of Connecticut, Draper Workshop.

April 10, 2018.            University of Texas, Dallas, History Department.

April 5, 2018.              Harvard University, Radcliffe Institute.

March 30, 2018.         Duke University.

March 13, 2018.          American Bar Association, Division for Public Education. 

February 22, 2018.     University of Georgia, Department of History.

February 7, 2018.        Yale University, RASW Workshop.

January 18, 2018.        Roger Williams School of Law. 

January 4, 2018.          American Association of Law Schools.

November 6, 2017.      Notre Dame School of Law.


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