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The Journal of American History

What Blood Won’t Tell


Jeannine Marie DeLombard

December 1, 2009

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 In 1952 the racial requirement was revoked.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.


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