The Program in Law and Public Affairs (LAPA) presents a noon book talk with Martha S. Jones, the Society of Black Alumni Presidential Professor and professor of history at Johns Hopkins University, and author of Birthright Citizens: A History of Race and Rights in Antebellum America.
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 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Dred Scott. Still, 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, when the Fourteenth Amendment constitutionalized the birthright principle, Black Americans’ aspirations were realized.
Lunch provided (available at noon. RSVP required (Google form).
Martha S. Jones joined the Johns Hopkins University Krieger School of Arts and Sciences Department of History on June 1, 2017 as the Society of Black Alumni Presidential Professor and professor of history. She came from the University of Michigan College of Literature, Science, and the Art, where she was a Presidential Bicentennial Professor, professor of history and Afroamerican and African studies. She was a founding director of the Michigan Law School Program in Race, Law & History and a senior fellow in the Michigan Society of Fellows. Jones is a legal and cultural historian whose interests include the study of race, law, citizenship, slavery, and the rights of women. She holds a Ph.D. in history from Columbia University and a J.D. from the CUNY School of Law. Prior to joining the Michigan faculty, she was a public interest litigator in New York City and a Charles H. Revson Fellow on the Future of the City of New York at Columbia University. She is the author of All Bound Up Together: The Woman Question in African American Public Culture 1830-1900 (University of North Carolina Press, 2007) and Birthright Citizens: A History of Race and Rights in Antebellum America (Cambridge University Press, 2018) and a co-editor of Toward an Intellectual History of Black Women (University of North Carolina Press, 2015). Her work includes the curatation of museum exhibitions including “Reframing the Color Line” and “Proclaiming Emancipation” in conjunction with the William L. Clements Library. Her essays and commentary have appeared in The Washington Post, Chronicle of Higher Education, CNN, and Detroit Free Press, among other news outlets. Her work has been supported by the American Council of Learned Societies, the National Humanities Center, the National Constitution Center, and the Gilder-Lehrman Institute of American History. Today, she serves as co-president of the Berkshire Conference of Women Historians, and was recently elected to the Organization of American Historians Executive Board.