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The First ReconstructionBlack Politics in America from the Revolution to the Civil War$
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Van Gosse

Print publication date: 2021

Print ISBN-13: 9781469660103

Published to North Carolina Scholarship Online: January 2022

DOI: 10.5149/northcarolina/9781469660103.001.0001

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Our Appeal for a Republican Birthright

Our Appeal for a Republican Birthright

The Ideology of Black Republicanism before the Civil War

(p.29) Chapter 1 Our Appeal for a Republican Birthright
The First Reconstruction

Van Gosse

University of North Carolina Press

This chapter outlines the ideology of black republicanism, a form of citizenship politics focused on three arguments: the principle of birthright citizenship inherited from England; nativism (the claim to be “native-born” unlike immigrant Europeans); and military service, as veterans in the Revolution and the War of 1812. It begins with an 1840 “Address” by Henry Highland Garnet asserting “We are Americans,” and cites Frederick Douglass making the same claim. It brings in the American Colonization Society, which sought to remove African Americans to Africa, denying their possible citizenship. Finally, it suggests that racialism itself was sharply contested in the early republic via the trope of “complexion,” a mutable characteristic, versus “race” or “color.”

Keywords:   Citizenship, Politics, Black republicanism, Birthright, Nativism, Veterans, Henry Highland Garnet, Frederick Douglass, American Colonization Society, Complexion

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