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  • Print publication year: 2019
  • Online publication date: January 2019

7 - Black Sailors, their Communities, and the Fight for Citizenship


This chapter analyzes the Seamen Acts from the point of view of the sailors - highlighting the ways they responded to the laws' enforcement - before placing their claims to citizenship within the broader story of African-American rights claims. By pressing for the recognition of national citizenship rights for itinerant black sailors, African-American communities expanded their otherwise state-based demands for individual rights. These demands were regular fixtures in African-American protest literature and had profound consequences in shaping the legal culture of citizenship in the decades before the Civil War.

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