- Publisher: Cambridge University Press
- Online publication date: January 2019
- Print publication year: 2019
- Online ISBN: 9781108695404
Between 1822 and 1857, eight Southern states barred the ingress of all free black maritime workers. According to lawmakers, they carried a 'moral contagion' of abolitionism and black autonomy that could be transmitted to local slaves. Those seamen who arrived in Southern ports in violation of the laws faced incarceration, corporal punishment, an incipient form of convict leasing, and even punitive enslavement. The sailors, their captains, abolitionists, and British diplomatic agents protested this treatment. They wrote letters, published tracts, cajoled elected officials, pleaded with Southern officials, and litigated in state and federal courts. By deploying a progressive and sweeping notion of national citizenship - one that guaranteed a number of rights against state regulation - they exposed the ambiguity and potential power of national citizenship as a legal category. Ultimately, the Fourteenth Amendment recognized the robust understanding of citizenship championed by Antebellum free people of color, by people afflicted with 'moral contagion'.
Kelly Kennington - Auburn University and author of In the Shadow of Dred Scott: St. Louis Freedom Suits and the Legal Culture of Slavery in Antebellum America
Nathan Perl-Rosenthal - University of Southern California and author of Citizen Sailors: Becoming American in the Age of Revolution
Kunal M. Parker - University of Miami and author of Making Foreigners: Immigration and Citizenship Law in America, 1600–2000