The African’s Right to Citizenship

Publication Year: 1865

The African's Right to Citizenship (Philadelphia: James S. Claxton, 1865).  
PHS Call number: PAM E 185.2 .A4 1865    

Reading suggestions

See especially pages 5-10 (page numbering starts on page 5). 

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Source note

This short essay arguing for the right of African Americans to live in the United States and enjoy U.S. citizenship was published as a pamphlet in 1865. Relatively inexpensive and easy to print, pamphlets were commonly used in the 19th century to spread information about a political, religious, or social topic. James S. Claxton is listed as the printer of this pamphlet, but whether he or another author wrote it is not known. Claxton bought his publishing and photo album business from the two former owners in early 1865, the same year that he published The African’s Right to Citizenship.

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Reading questions

1.    Who published/printed this source? What is known about the author?

2.    What is the writing style of the author? What assumptions can you make about the identity of the author, based on the text?

3.    Before launching into the main argument that black people should be U.S. citizens, the author says he or she must first establish that African American people even have a right to remain in the country after emancipation (page 6). Based on what you know of this period, how common was the idea that African Americans shouldn’t be allowed to live in the U.S. as free people?

4.    What is the author’s critique of the colonization movement, which proposed that free African Americans should be settled in colonies in West Africa and elsewhere (page 9)?

5.    What comparison does the author make between African Americans and American Indians (pages 10-11)? What purpose does this comparison have in furthering his larger argument about African American citizenship rights?

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Source type
History Topics
Abolition and Anti-slavery
African American History
Civil War
Time Period
Slavery, Sectionalism, and Social Reform (1815-1861)