Intimations of citizenship: Repressions and expressions of equal citizenship in the era of Jim CROW

Abstract

On first blush the Jim Crow Era may seem an odd place to locate anything meaningful about democratic, equal citizenship and the promise of the fourteenth amendment. This article argues to the contrary. The period of Jim Crow, in its negation of democratic citizenship, in fact reveals import aspects about the nature of democratic citizenship. This occurred in two ways. First, whites who implemented white supremacy implicitly understood that freedom and citizenship manifest themselves in a multiplicity of spheres, which is why white supremacists sought to subordinate blacks not just politically but across all social spheres. Second, the resistance to comprehensive subordination revealed the multiplicity of the spirit of freedom and equality in actions and arguments African Americans. African Americans created spaces of democratic citizenship within the dominant culture of subordination. This article suggests that, in studying both the implementation of white supremacy and the resistance to it, we can learn more about how equal and democratic citizenship can be affirmed and implemented rather than negated, and also about the role of law as a tool for both subordination and resistance.

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