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  • Print publication year: 2020
  • Online publication date: October 2020

4 - State Citizenship for Blacks

Summary

examines the development of Black citizenship, beginning with a stark reminder that blacks had no access to national citizenship rights in the antebellum period, even though there were more than 435,000 free Blacks living in the United States at the time of the Supreme Court’s 1857 Dred Scott ruling. The Framers’ Constitution had accommodated the interests and demands of slaveholding states at the time of ratification and thus gave much greater power to states than the federal government in setting citizenship rights. The constitutional framework structuring black citizenship changed significantly after the Civil War, as new forms of regressive state citizenship emerged against the backdrop of Reconstruction and decades of Jim Crow, followed by rapid changes in the Civil Rights period that continues until today. Throughout this chapter, the authors train their focus on the role of the Constitution and courts in defining and constraining Black citizenship rights, as well as the role of parties and social movement actors in propelling legislative action toward rights expansion and contraction.

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