African American Legal Status from Reconstruction Law to the Nadir of Jim Crow: 1865–1919

Lisa Crooms-Robinson

in The Oxford Handbook of African American Citizenship, 1865-Present

Published in print May 2012 | ISBN: 9780195188059
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Politics & International Relations

African American Legal Status from Reconstruction Law to the Nadir of Jim Crow: 1865–1919

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As Emancipation and Reconstruction eliminated much of the legal foundation of slavery, states and individuals became increasingly concerned about preserving the racial integrity of whiteness. The Reconstruction Amendments were intended to change not only the scope of matters over which states retained control but also the balance of power between the federal and state governments. Their ability to achieve these objectives, however, was limited by both the Tenth Amendment and principles of state sovereignty. Consequently, the Tenth Amendment became an increasingly important source of state power to make the privileges, immunities, and rights of state citizenship racially contingent. To the extent that the Fourteenth Amendment's federal citizenship had any effect, it required states to treat similarly situated individuals and situations equally. Moreover, sovereignty meant states continued to have the ability not only to define the particulars of race but also to determine when and how race would matter. Federal citizenship, however, did not make race constitutionally irrelevant.

Keywords: Reconstruction; Jim Crow; state citizenship; state sovereignty; federal citizenship; racial integrity

Article.  8578 words. 

Subjects: Politics ; US Politics ; Political Behaviour

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