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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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Free People of Color, Expulsion, and Enslavement in the Antebellum South

Free People of Color, Expulsion, and Enslavement in the Antebellum South

(p.64) 3 Free People of Color, Expulsion, and Enslavement in the Antebellum South
Creating Citizenship in the Nineteenth-Century South

Emily West

University Press of Florida

Free people of color in the antebellum United States were excluded from legal citizenship as defined in the 1790 Naturalization Act because they were not “free white persons.” Like their enslaved counterparts, Southern free blacks were excluded from legal marriage, although most black people, whether enslaved or free, strove to choose their own life partners and live as couples regardless of their status before the law. Southern free people of color were also unable to vote, and many faced considerable hardships in their attempts to earn a living. As notions of citizenship in the eyes of whites grew ever more exclusionary, the declining status of free people of color was formalized before law. On a national level the 1857 Dred Scott decision the Supreme Court declared free people of color never had been and therefore never could be citizens. But even before this time, at a local and state level, Southern legislatures had been moving from the 1830s onward to restrict the freedoms afforded free people of color, and by the 1850s their aim was the removal of what they perceived to be an anomaly in the slave South: a free black person.

Keywords:   Free blacks, voluntary enslavement, citizenship

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