What Makes A Citizen?
African-Americans living free in Baltimore before the Civil War were constantly testing whether the law and courts saw them as citizens, with rights to be respected. In a prize-winning book, Johns Hopkins Professor Martha S. Jones argues the free Blacks of Baltimore shaped the idea of birthright citizenship that made it into the U.S. constitution and that their struggle still carries meaning for today’s immigrants.
“People had been permitted to labor in this country, to build families, communities, vocations. And yet they lived with a profound uncertainty about whether they would be permitted to stay, whether they had rights under the law.”