This two-volume set examines how today's U.S. citizen was first imagined, how citizenship was established and codified, and how it has been refined over time. Essays also consider barriers to full citizenship, including voting rights, civil rights, prisoner's rights, immigration quotas, and the process of becoming a naturalized citizen. Slavery is also discussed, as slaves were not considered citizens at all and in fact only counted as three-fifths of man. Constitutional amendments, civil rights legislation, and a parade of court cases both advanced and prevented individuals from achieving citizenship. White women were considered citizens from the nation's earliest days, but they could not vote, hold office, or serve on juries until the determined efforts of suffragists began the process of making all women full citizens with all of its attendant rights, including the right to vote. Native Americans were not officially U.S. citizens until the passage of the Indian Citizenship Act in 1924.
Readers will gain an in-depth understanding of American citizenship. The documents analyzed in this set include:
- The Declaration of Independence
- The United States Constitution
- The Bill of Rights
- The Compromise of 1850
- The Fifteenth, Nineteenth, Twenty-fourth, and Twenty-fifth Amendments
- David Walker's Appeal to the Colored Citizens of the World
- Susan B. Anthony's "Is It a Crime for a Citizen of the United States to Vote?"
- Voting Rights Act of 1975
Each in-depth chapter provides a thorough commentary and analysis of each primary source document, often reprinted in its entirety. Commentary includes a Summary, Overview, Defining Moment, Author Biography, Detailed Document Analysis, and discussion of Essential Themes. Many of these chapters are bolstered through the inclusion of Supplemental Historical Documents, which broaden the scope of the book and offer additional context.