The first lesson or case study should begin with students brainstorming, why is citizenship important. This case study will focus on citizenship law while also building upon the ideas surrounding racial science mentioned in the previous section. The purpose of this case study is to help students reshape the way in which they look at the law. As mentioned in the previous sections, students oftentimes see the law as being fixed or movable and oftentimes overlook the real consequences that the law can have on society outside of an individual bonds.
It is important to remember that when America first gained its independence in July of 1776, they begin crafting what they believed to be a physical manifestation of Enlightenment ideas from which they considered themselves to be the inheritors. However, those discussions had long been taking place and becoming legitimized in legal code prior to the crafting of the Declaration of Independence. There had long been a discussion on who should be entitled to citizenship and fear of contaminating what was considered to be, but more importantly who would rights and who would not.2
These colonial ideals on race can best be illustrated from the journals of one of the founding fathers, Benjamin Franklin. Franklin, as most of the founding fathers, leave us in their writings their grand imaginations for the country in which they wished to craft and the people they wished to enjoy the benefits of their work. In the 1750s, at a time of great change and adjustment in what was then the thirteen colonies, Franklin grew fearful that the colonies were becoming diluted and overrun by outsiders. Those who he considered being outsiders were those of European descent. Below is an excerpt from one of his most lauded pieces, Observations Concerning the Increase of Mankind:
[Which leads me to add one Remark: That the Number of purely white People in the World is proportionally very small. All Africa is black or tawny. Asia is chiefly tawny. America (exclusive of the new Comers) wholly so. And in Europe, the Spaniards, Italians, French, Russians, and Swedes, are generally of what we call a swarthy Complexion; as are the Germans also, the Saxons only excepted, who with the English, make the principal Body of White People on the Face of the Earth. I could wish their Numbers were increased. And while we are, as I may call it, Scouring our Planet, by clearing America of Woods, and so making this Side of our Globe reflect a brighter Light to the Eyes of Inhabitants in Mars or Venus, why should we in the Sight of Superior Beings, darken its People? why increase the Sons of Africa, by Planting them in America, where we have so fair an Opportunity, by excluding all Blacks and Tawneys, of increasing the lovely White and Red? But perhaps I am partial to the complexion of my Country, for such Kind of Partiality is natural to Mankind.] (Observations Concerning the Increase of Mankind:, 1755)
It is important to recognize this quote in context. Similar to today, and throughout many time periods throughout the United States History, Benjamin Franklin saw himself at the center of demographic changes. For some, his words are used as evidence for describing the migration shift and patterns of the time, but for those who study race and the formations of race, his descriptions of those migrants cannot be ignored or cast aside
Using this source as a teaser for the main activity or do now for analysis and providing the students with the opportunity to make connections to the previous day with questions. Some sample questions that students can be asked to answer might be 1) What are some connections that we can make from our articles yesterday on Blumenbach? 2) Who does Benjamin Franklin consider to be truly white? 3) How does Benjamin Franklin view other races? With all of the prep on contextualize race in the colonial time period, students are given the chance to see Franklin and his ideas on race, not on its own, but in conversation with others.
Another way of source that can be introduced during this time might be splitting the class in half, with one portion of the class providing analysis on Franklin’s work, while the other half of the class can analyze the following source from Thomas Jefferson on race.
The first difference [between whites and blacks] which strikes us is that of color... The the difference is fixed in nature and is as real as if its seat and cause were better known to us. And is this difference of no importance? Is it on to the foundation of a greater or less share of beauty in the two races? Are not the fine mixtures of red and white, the expressions of every passion by greater or fewer suffusions of color in the one, preferable to that eternal monotony, which reigns in the countenances, that immoveable veil of black which covers all the emotions of the other race? Add to these, flowing hair, a more elegant symmetry of form, their own judgment in favor of the whites, declared by their preference of them, as uniformly as is the preference of the orangutan for the black women over those of his own species. The circumstance of superior beauty, is thought worthy attention in the propagation of our horses, dogs, and other domestic animals; why not in that of man? (Notes on the State of Virginia , 1787)
After, the students can choose a partner from the other group and sit down and discuss the questions, promoting more student to student interaction. Following the analysis of the founding fathers, students can begin to engage in more inquiry and use their historical thinking skills to examine examples of racial legal code leading up to the Naturalization Laws of 1790. A core secondary text for this portion of the lesson plan will be Richard Coates, who analyzes racial formational in the early colonial time period.
For the main activity, students will organize differently and analyze different examples of laws from the early colonial period.
Students can receive a worksheet with the following laws, or for more movement in classrooms, students can be given cutouts to paste on the board. The purpose of giving students these sources will be so that they are able to examine examples of different laws and more importantly, inquire deeper about the function. The questions for students should be simple but require deep analysis. 1) What does this law state? 2) Who does this law benefit? Who does it disadvantage? 3) What are the consequences?
1) In the case of a person visibly appearing to be a Negro, the presumption is that he is a slave; but in the case of a person visibly appearing to be a white man or an Indian, the presumption is that he is free.
2) In the case of a person visibly appearing to be a Negro, the presumption is that he is a slave; but in the case of a person visibly appearing to be a white man or an Indian, the presumption is that he is free.
3) The sources of the right to freedom are 1. The white race in the maternal line; 2. The race, in the same line, of American Indians, for the period during which they could not lawfully be reduced to bondage; 3. Emancipation; 4. Descent in the maternal line from individuals so entitled. Emancipation may be,
4) The baptism of slaves doth not exempt them from bondage, and all children shall be bond or free according to the condition of their mothers and the particular directions of this act.
After brainstorming, students can then analyze the Naturalization Laws of 1790 in the same format while emphasizing the term white. Students can either discuss individually/small groups or as an entire class.
That any alien, being a free white person, who shall have resided within the limits and under the jurisdiction of the United States for a term of two years, maybe admitted to become a citizen thereof, on application to any common law court of record, in any one of the states wherein he shall have resided for the term of one year at least, and making proof to the satisfaction of such court, that he is a person of good character, and taking the oath or affirmation prescribed by law, to support the constitution of the United States, which oath or affirmation such court shall administer; and the clerk of such court shall record such application, and the proceedings thereon; and thereupon such person shall be considered as a citizen of the United States.
The students can use the following questions to discuss and dig deeper into the laws of 1790. 1) How do the Naturalization laws compare to our laws today? 2) Using your answers from your do now on citizenship, how did this law contribute to racial formation? 3) Why is this law so important? 4) How is the law being used as an instrument to determine our ideas on race?
By having students take the time to actually think about the function of the Naturalization Laws of 1790 in a historical and global context, we are allowing them to reshape the ways in which they look at the law.
An exit ticket or a follow-up activity may be for students to read a news article on the controversy surrounding the fourteenth amendment along with a modified excerpt from Richard Coates3 piece to use as an anchor for article or journal reflection.