Top positive review
How African Americans Used Law and Legal Action to Seize Citizenship for Themselves
Reviewed in the United States on October 26, 2018
Martha S. Jones has delved into a wide range of archival sources to tell the story of extraordinary black activists who overcame white supremacy (including colonization plans designed to exile blacks) by relentlessly pressing for rights through legislative action and the court system in antebellum Baltimore. The stories are told through the lenses of black seamen, black churches, property and firearm ownership, and efforts to adjudicate claims in Baltimore city and Maryland state courthouses. Jones's powerful concluding chapter on the legacy of the 1857 Dred Scott decision in Maryland underscores the Kafkaesque situation blacks could face; i.e., that a state could grant citizenship rights without granting citizenship--even in the wake of judicial rulings stating that blacks, while "inferior and subordinate" to whites, had "standing." Jones's prior career as a public interest lawyer in New York City allows her to approach this subject with insight and sensitivity.