You Are Not American: Citizenship Stripping From Dred Scott to the Dreamers
UVA Law Faculty Affiliations
Citizenship is invaluable, yet our status as citizens is always at risk—even for those born on US soil.
Over the last two centuries, the US government has revoked citizenship to cast out its unwanted, suppress dissent, and deny civil rights to all considered “un-American”—whether due to their race, ethnicity, marriage partner, or beliefs. Drawing on the narratives of those who have struggled to be treated as full members of “We the People,” law professor Amanda Frost exposes a hidden history of discrimination and xenophobia that continues to this day.
The Supreme Court’s rejection of Black citizenship in Dred Scott was among the first and most notorious examples of citizenship stripping, but the phenomenon did not end there. Women who married noncitizens, persecuted racial groups, labor leaders, and political activists were all denied their citizenship, and sometimes deported, by a government that wanted to redefine the meaning of “American.” Today, US citizens living near the southern border are regularly denied passports, thousands are detained and deported by mistake, and the Trump administration is investigating the citizenship of 700,000 naturalized citizens. Even elected leaders such as Barack Obama and Kamala Harris are not immune from false claims that they are not citizens eligible to hold office.
You Are Not American grapples with what it means to be American and the issues surrounding membership, identity, belonging, and exclusion that still occupy and divide the nation in the twenty-first century.