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Creating Citizenship in the Nineteenth-Century South$
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William A. Link, David Brown, Brian Ward, and Martyn Bone

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780813044132

Published to Florida Scholarship Online: September 2013

DOI: 10.5744/florida/9780813044132.001.0001

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White Supremacy and the Question of Black Citizenship in the Post-Emancipation South

White Supremacy and the Question of Black Citizenship in the Post-Emancipation South

Chapter:
(p.223) 10 White Supremacy and the Question of Black Citizenship in the Post-Emancipation South
Source:
Creating Citizenship in the Nineteenth-Century South
Author(s):

Daryl Michael Scott

Publisher:
University Press of Florida
DOI:10.5744/florida/9780813044132.003.0010

With the Reconstruction Acts and the ratification of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments, the legal ambiguity surrounding the national citizenship of free persons of African descent vanished, and for the first time most of those who had lived in the antebellum South could aver that they were now legally citizens of their states and the American nation. This triumph of civic or liberal nationalism did not please everyone, especially Southerners (whites born or assimilated into southern culture). As a consequence, the history of the post-emancipation South has been written from the perspective of federal pronouncements rather than on-the-ground realities. Their official badges of citizenship notwithstanding, persons of African descent struggled for generations against ethnoracial nationalism. Recognizing a gap, scholars have often referred to blacks as second-class citizens, a status unknown under the law. This compromised language underwrites the nearly universally held view of America as the quintessential example of civic nationalism and distorts global understandings of the history of nationalism. When white supremacy is explored as an ideology as well as a condition, its ethnoracial nationalism becomes clear and the central claim of American exceptionalism is shown to be its most enduring myth.

Keywords:   White supremacy, ethnoracial nationalism, citizenship

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