Jeannine Marie DeLombard

University of Toronto, Journal of American History

In 1790, absent any explicit federal definition of citizenship, Congress restricted eligibility for naturalization to "any alien, being a free white person." In 1952 the racial requirement was revoked. During the intervening 160 years, race and citizenship became mutually constitutive categories in American culture, as Ariela J. Gross demonstrates in her delightfully readable legal history of racial identity in the United States.

The persistent inextricability of race and citizenship leads Gross to reject one strand of the history of race in the United States, the rise of the so-called one-drop rule (p. 297), as well as to call into legal-historical question claims made by whiteness studies scholars about the perceived racial alterity of immigrant groups such as the Irish and Italians. Reviewing freedom suits, miscegenation trials, naturalization cases, and myriad other proceedings, Gross persuasively exposes the shifting sands upon which the unstable but formidable (and enduring) edi