Matthew Frye Jacobson
"Whiteness and the Normative American Citizen"
Summers Auditorium, October 29th, 2014
Matthew Frye Jacobson is Professor of History, African American Studies and American Studies at Yale University; an Organization of American Historians Distinguished Lecturer; national award-winning author; and a pioneering scholar in the history of whiteness in the United States.
This lecture examines the relationship, past and present, between race and citizenship. In 1790 the young republic's first Congress wrote whiteness into the legal structures of US citizenship by stipulating that only "free white persons" could immigrate and become naturalized citizens. This was perhaps the most portentous law in US history, both for the political world it created and for what it might tell us about the operations of "race" in our national life. This lecture examines the colonial prehistory, the enduring logic, and the powerful legacies of the 1790 Naturalization Law by taking up a series of case studies, from 17th and 18th settler colonialism, to 19th-century immigration, to the Chinese Exclusion Act, to Japanese-American internment, to contemporary immigration debates and the stubborn resistance to our first black president.
WHITENESS AND THE NORMATIVE AMERICAN CITIZEN:
RACE AND US POLITICAL CULTURE, 1790 TO THE PRESENT