Constituting Citizenship before the Fourteenth Amendment
What can a slave's narrative teach us about citizenship? How did the new nation identify citizens when its Constitution seemed so silent on the matter? And how did one tailor's pamphlet result in one of most massive restrictions of free speech in U.S. history? Our goal over the semester will be to sketch a story of African American literary production from the latter half of the eighteenth century to the Civil War and to tease out, through this literature, developing understandings of citizenship in the United States. We will read letters, poems, sermons, songs, constitutions and bylaws, short stories, and texts that simply defy easy categorization. We will also spend several sessions becoming familiar with key newspapers and magazines-Freedom's Journal, Frederick Douglass's Paper, The Anglo-African Magazine, Christian Recorder, and The Crisis-to deepen our understanding of the kinds of things people were reading and writing on a regular basis and the kinds of arguments they were making. Writers up for discussion may include: Frederick Douglass, James Madison, Harriet Jacobs, Henry David Thoreau, Sojourner Truth, and David Walker. Not offered 2023-24.