Rights Bound to Respect


Between the founding of the United States in the 1780s, and the start of the Civil War in 1861, African Americans—both enslaved and free—helped to influence how people defined American citizenship. In turn, African American social, political, and economic history was affected by the ways in which they were viewed (or not viewed) as American citizens. This lesson provides students with an opportunity to analyze how American concepts of citizenship evolved during the early nineteenth century, and to consider how African Americans were affected by these concepts. The lesson will also provide an opportunity for students to understand the complex nature of American Constitutional and legal history as it relates to African-Americans, slavery, and freedom.

Scope and Sequence

This lesson plan is designed to take place over three 55-minute block periods, or two 90-minute block periods. Students will read background material on the history of civil rights as a legal and cultural concept during the nineteenth century. Students will answer questions to guide them through the historical evidence, and they will use this evidence to write a hypothesis that seeks to answer the following question: How did historical and political context affect African-American citizenship, and how did Americans, free and enslaved, African-American and white, shape conceptualizations of citizenship?


To show that they have understood the lesson’s content, students will able to do the following at the end of the lesson plan:

  1. Explain the legal definitions of citizenship at different moments between the Revolution and the beginning of the Civil War in the United States during the nineteenth century.
  2. Explain how these legal definitions of citizenship at different moments during the nineteenth century affected African-Americans, enslaved and free, at different moments between the Revolution and the beginning of the Civil War.
  3. Analyze primary and secondary sources to determine legal definitions of citizenship between the Revolution and the Civil War, and how African-Americans were affected by these definitions.
  4. Cite textual evidence to support a working thesis about the nature of African-American citizenship at a specific point during the nineteenth century.

Common Core Standards:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.11-12.1: Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary that makes clear the relationships among the key details and ideas.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.11-12.4: Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including analyzing how an author uses and refines the meaning of a key term over the course of a text (e.g., how Madison defines faction in Federalist No. 10).

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.11-12.9: Integrate information from diverse sources, both primary and secondary, into a coherent understanding of an idea or event, noting discrepancies among sources.


Essential Questions

  • What did American citizenship mean during the nineteenth century and how did this meaning change over time?
  • Despite legal and Constitutional definitions of citizenship, how did African-Americans define citizenship for themselves and their communities?
  • What might the conflict between legal definitions of American citizenship and African-American claims to citizenship indicate about the nature of citizenship prior to the Civil War?


Introductory Activity: Done as a Class (10 minutes)

As a class, have students brainstorm about how they define citizenship. Who is a citizen? Who is not? How is this decided? How do they believe that the idea of “citizen” has changed over time?

After students brainstorm about the meaning of “citizenship,” separate them into three groups. One group will look at primary sources from the Revolutionary Era and the Early Republic (c. 1770 – 1800) in American history. A second group will look at primary sources from the Jeffersonian and Second Party periods (c. 1800 – 1830) in American history. A third group will look at primary sources from the Antebellum period (c. 1830 – 1860) in American history. For more advanced students, each individual student can choose three primary sources, one from each era, or three from one era. Each group will be responsible for reading and analyzing the following sources, all of which can be found on the AASC primary source index. Note that all students are responsible for reading the secondary sources, while each group as a different set of primary sources:

GROUP 1 : Independence and the Early Republic (c. 1770 – 1800)

GROUP 2 : Jeffersonian Republicanism and the Second Party System (c. 1800 – 1830)

GROUP 3 : Ante-Bellum Period (c. 1830 – 1860)

Historical Background

Have students read the AASC subject entries on Civil Rights 1619 – 1896, Free Blacks in the United States, and the Dred Scott Case. Students can answer the following questions as they read the subject entries. Note that, to save on classroom time, students can read the subject entries and answer the questions as homework, so that they come to class prepared. The students can also read the subject entries as a class during the first 60 minutes of one of the 90-minute class periods, or during one of the 55 minute class periods.

Questions for Subject Entries

  1. Have students choose a colony / state that is mentioned in the subject entry on Civil Rights 1619 – 1896. Who could be free in this colony in 1650? In 1750? By 1850, when this “colony” / former territory became a state? Who could be free in 1650? In 1750? In 1850? How was this decided?
  2. Have students choose a colony / state that is mentioned in the subject entry on Civil Rights 1619 – 1896. What did the idea of “citizen” mean in 1770 in this colony? In 1800 when this colony became a state? In 1800? In 1830? How was this decided? What did the idea of “citizen” mean in 1770? In 1800? In 1830? In 1850? How was this decided?
    1. What did the American Constitution say about who could become a citizen?
    2. What prompted the Dred Scott case and how did the Supreme Court rule on the case in 1857?

Primary Source Document Analysis

Group One

Constitution of the United States (Constitutional Convention 1787 – 1788)

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

[ . . . ]


Article I.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Article II.

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

Article III.

No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.

Article IV.

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Article V.

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

Article VII.

In Suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise re-examined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.

Article VIII.

Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

Article IX.

The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

Article X.

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

[ . . . ]


  1. Is the word “citizen” used in this document? If so, where?
  2. Is the phrase “the people” the same as the phrase “citizen” in this document? Why or why not?
  3. According to this document, what are the specific rights of “the people”?

1790 Naturalization Act

United States Congress, “An act to establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization” (March 26, 1790)

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America, in Congress assembled, That any Alien being a free white person, who shall have resided within the limits and under the jurisdiction of the United States for the term of two years, may be admitted to become a citizen thereof on application to any common law Court of record in any one of the States wherein he shall have resided for the term of one year at least, and making proof to the satisfaction of such Court that he is a person of good character, and taking the oath or affirmation prescribed by law to support the Constitution of the United States, which Oath or Affirmation such Court shall administer, and the Clerk of such Court shall record such Application, and the proceedings thereon; and thereupon such person shall be considered as a Citizen of the United States. And the children of such person so naturalized, dwelling within the United States, being under the age of twenty one years at the time of such naturalization, shall also be considered as citizens of the United States. And the children of citizens of the United States that may be born beyond Sea, or out of the limits of the United States, shall be considered as natural born Citizens: Provided, that the right of citizenship shall not descend to persons whose fathers have never been resident in the United States: Provided also, that no person heretofore proscribed by any States, shall be admitted a citizen as aforesaid, except by an Act of the Legislature of the State in which such person was proscribed.

  1. According to the document, who may be “admitted to become a citizen”?
  2. According to the document, what happens to a person whose parents were formerly “aliens,” and who are now “admitted to become a citizen”?
  3. According to the document, who is considered a “natural born citizen”?
Petition of Emancipated Slaves to North Carolina Congress (1797)

To the President, Senate, and House of Representatives.

The Petition and Representation of the under-named Freemen, respectfully showeth:—

That, being of African descent, late inhabitants and natives of North Carolina, to you only, under God, can we apply with any hope of effect, for redress of our grievances, having been compelled to leave the State wherein we had a right of residence, as freemen liberated under the hand and seal of humane and conscientious masters, the validity of which act of justice in restoring us to our native right of freedom, was confirmed by judgment of the Superior Court of North Carolina, wherein it was brought to trial; yet, not long after this decision, a law of that State was enacted, under which men of cruel disposition . . . received countenance and authority in violently seizing, imprisoning, and selling into slavery, such as had been so emancipated; whereby we were reduced to the necessity of separating from some of our nearest and most tender connexions, and of seeking refuge in such parts of the Union where more regard is paid to the public declaration in favor of liberty and the common right of man, several hundreds, under our circumstances, having, in consequence of the said law, been hunted day and night, like beasts of the forest, by armed men with dogs, and made a prey of as free and lawful plunder.

[ . . . ]

We beseech your impartial attention to our hard condition, not only with respect to our personal sufferings, as freemen, but as a class of that people who, distinguished by color, are therefore with a degrading partiality, considered by many, even of those in eminent stations, as unentitled to that public justice and protection which is the great object of Government.

[ . . . ]

If, notwithstanding all that has been publicly avowed as essential principles respecting the extent of human right to freedom; notwithstanding we have had that right restored to us, so far as was in the power of those by whom we were held as slaves, we cannot claim the privilege of representation in your councils, yet we trust we may address you as fellow-men, who, under God, the sovereign Ruler of the Universe, are intrusted with the distribution of justice, for the terror of evil-doers, the encouragement and protection of the innocent, not doubting that you are men of liberal minds, susceptible of benevolent feelings and clear conception of rectitude to a catholic extent, who can admit that black people (service as their condition generally is throughout this Continent) have natural affections, social and domestic attachments and sensibilities;. . . . Submitting our cause to God, and humbly craving your best aid and influence, as you may be favored and directed by that wisdom which is from above, wherewith that you may be eminently dignified and rendered conspicuously, in the view of nations, a blessing to the people you represent, is the sincere prayer of your petitioners.

Jacob Nicholson,

Jupiter Nicholson, his mark,

Job Albert, his mark,

Thomas Pritchet, his mark.

Philadelphia, January 23, 1797

  1. According to the document’s title, the petition is submitted to authorities in North Carolina. But at the end of the document, the place where the document is written is “Philadelphia.” According to the document’s first paragraph, how did the petitioners end up in Philadelphia?
  2. Are the men enslaved or are they free, and what do they want from the “President, Senate, and House of Representatives?”
  3. What do the petitioners mean when they say that they “cannot claim the privilege of representation in your councils, yet we trust we may address you as fellow-men”?

After the group has made notes on the documents and answered the questions, have them present their findings to the class by answering the following questions. This can be done as a group homework assignment, so that students have time to present their “GROUP ONE ANALYSIS” in a more comprehensive manner. After they present their findings, have Group 2 and Group 3 state how Group 1’s analysis relates to their own findings.

Group One Analysis Questions
  1. According to the 1787 Constitution, who are “citizens” and what are their rights?
  2. According to the 1790 Naturalization Act, who was considered an American citizen?
  3. How might the definitions of citizenship in the 1787 Constitution and the 1790 Naturalization Act affect the African-American petitioners in the third document? Do the African-American petitioners in 1797 have ideas about citizenship that contradict or support the ideas in the 1787 Constitution and the 1790 Naturalization Act?

Group Two

Ohio Black Code 1804

Section 1. Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Ohio, That from and after the first day of June next no black or mulatto person shall be permitted to settle or reside in this state, unless he or she shall first produce a fair certificate from some court within the United States, of his or her actual freedom. . .

Sec. 2. And be it further enacted, That every black or mulatto person residing within this state, on or before the fifth day of June, one thousand eight hundred and four, shall enter his or her name, together with the name or names of his or her children, in the clerk's office in the county in which he, she or they reside, which shall be entered on record by said clerk, and thereafter the clerk's certificate of such record shall be sufficient evidence of his, her or their freedom; and for every entry and certificate, the person obtaining the same shall pay to the clerk twelve and an half cents. Provided nevertheless, That nothing in this act contained shall bar the lawful claim to any black or mulatto person.

Sec. 3. And be it further enacted, That no person or persons residents of this state, shall be permitted to hire, or in any way employ any black or mulatto person, unless such black or mulatto person shall have one of the certificates as aforesaid, under pain of forfeiting and paying any sum not less than ten nor more than fifty dollars, at the discretion of the court . . .

Sec. 4. And be it further enacted, That if any person or persons shall harbour or secret any black or mulatto person, . . . shall, upon conviction thereof, . . . be fined in any sum not less than ten nor more than fifty dollars, at the discretion of the court . . .

Sec. 5. And be it further enacted, That every black or mulatto person who shall come to reside in this state with such certificate as is required in the first section of this act, shall, within two years, have the same recorded in the clerk's office, in the county in which he or she means to reside, for which he or she shall pay to the clerk twelve and an half cents, and the clerk shall give him or her a certificate of such record.

Sec. 6. And be it further enacted, That in case any person or persons, his or their agent or agents, claiming any black or mulatto person that now are or hereafter may be in this state, may apply, upon making satisfactory proof that such black or mulatto person or persons is the property of him or her who applies, to any associate judge or justice of the peace within this state, the associate judge or justice is hereby empowered and required, by his precept, to direct the sheriff or constable to arrest such black or mulatto person or persons and deliver the same in the county or township where such officers shall reside, to the claimant or claimants or his or their agent or agents, for which service the sheriff or constable shall receive such compensation as they are entitled to receive in other cases for similar services.

Sec. 7. And be it further enacted, That any person or persons who shall attempt to remove, or shall remove from this state, . . . any black or mulatto person or persons, without first proving as hereinbefore directed, that he, she or they, is or are legally entitled so to do, shall, on conviction thereof . . . forfeit and pay the sum of one thousand dollars.


  1. What does the document say about black men and women residing in Ohio?
  2. What does the document say about black men and women in Ohio who seek employment?
  3. According to this document, what legal rights do black and mulatto people in Ohio have if they are former slaves?

David Walker’s Appeal (1829)

I am fully aware, in making this appeal to my much afflicted and suffering brethren, that I shall not only be assailed by those whose greatest earthly desires are, to keep us in abject ignorance and wretchedness, and who are of the firm conviction that Heaven has designed us and our children to be slaves and beasts of burden to them and their children. I say, I do not only expect to be held up to the public as an ignorant, impudent and restless disturber of the public peace, by such avaricious creatures, as well as a mover of insubordination—and perhaps put in prison or to death, for giving a superficial exposition of our miseries, and exposing tyrants. But I am persuaded, that many of my brethren, particularly those who are ignorantly in league with slave-holders or tyrants, who acquire their daily bread by the blood and sweat of their more ignorant brethren—and not a few of those too, who are too ignorant to see an inch beyond their noses, will rise up and call me cursed—Yea, the jealous ones among us will perhaps use more abject subtlety, by affirming that this work is not worth perusing, that we are well situated, and there is no use in trying to better our condition, for we cannot. I will ask one question here. . . .

But against all accusations which may or can be preferred against me, I appeal to Heaven for my motive in writing—who knows that my object is, if possible, to awaken in the breasts of my afflicted, degraded and slumbering brethren, a spirit of inquiry and investigation respecting our miseries and wretchedness in this Republican Land of Liberty!!!!!!

[. . . ]

And as the inhuman system of slavery, is the source from which most of our miseries proceed, I shall begin with that curse to nations, which has spread terror and devastation through so many nations of antiquity, and which is raging to such a pitch at the present day in Spain and in Portugal. It had one tug in England, in France, and in the United States of America; yet the inhabitants thereof, do not learn wisdom, and erase it entirely from their dwellings and from all with whom they have to do. The fact is, the labour of slaves comes so cheap to the avaricious usurpers, and is (as they think) of such great utility to the country where it exists, that those who are actuated by sordid avarice only, overlook the evils, which will as sure as the Lord lives, follow after the good.

[. . . ]

All persons who are acquainted with history, and particularly the Bible, who are not blinded by the God of this world, and are not actuated solely by avarice—who are able to lay aside prejudice long enough to view candidly and impartially, things as they were, are, and probably will be—who are willing to admit that God made man to serve Him alone, and that man should have no other Lord or Lords but Himself—that God Almighty is the sole proprietor or master of the WHOLE human family, and will not on any consideration admit of a colleague, being unwilling to divide his glory with another—and who can dispense with prejudice long enough to admit that we are men, notwithstanding our improminent noses and woolly heads, and believe that we feel for our fathers, mothers, wives and children, as well as the whites do for theirs.—I say, all who are permitted to see and believe these things, can easily recognize the judgments of God


  1. According to the Document, what does Walker fear will be the response to his Appeal?
  2. According to the Walker, why is slavery the cause of African Americans’ misery?
  3. What does Walker say about the “human family?”

Richard Allen

The judicious part of mankind, will think it unreasonable, that a superior good conduct is looked for from our race, by those who stigmatize us as men, whose baseness is incurable, and may therefore be held in a state of servitude, that a merciful man would not doom a beast to; yet you try what you can, to prevent our rising from a state of barbarism you represent us to be in, but we can tell you from a degree of experience, that a black man, although reduced to the most abject state human nature is capable of, short of real madness, can think, reflect, and feel injuries, although it may not be with the same degree of keen resentment and revenge, that you who have been, and are our great oppressors would manifest, if reduced to the pitiable condition of a slave. We believe if you would try the experiment of taking a few black children, and cultivate their minds with the same care, and let them have the same prospect in view as to living in the world, as you would wish for your own children, you would find upon the trial, they were not inferior in mental endowments.

[. . .]

Will you, because you have reduced us to the unhappy condition our color is in, plead our incapacity for freedom, and our contented condition under oppression, as a sufficient cause for keeping us under the grievous yoke. . . . God himself hath pleaded [the slaves] cause, he hath from time to time raised up instruments for that purpose, sometimes mean and contemptible in your sight, at other times he hath used such as it hath pleased him, with whom you have not thought it beneath your dignity to contend. Many have been convinced of their error, condemned their former conduct, and become zealous advocates for the cause of those, whom you will not suffer to plead for themselves.


  1. Who is the “you” that the document is referring to? In other words, who is Richard Allen addressing and how can you tell?
  2. According to Allen, what are “the natural endowments” of African-Americans and what do these “natural endowments” indicate about slavery?
  3. Although Allen does not mention the word “citizen,” what does he say about the slaves’ cause and how does this cause assert African-American citizenship?

After the group has made notes on the documents and answered the questions, have them present their findings to the class by answering the following questions. This can be done as a group homework assignment, so that students have time to present their “GROUP TWO ANALYSIS” in a more comprehensive manner. After Group 2 presents their analysis, have members of Group 1 and Group 3 state how Group 2’s analysis connects to their own findings.

Group Two Analysis Questions

  1. How does Walker’s statement about “the human family,” and Allen’s statements about “natural endowments,” contrast to the 1804 Ohio Black Codes’ statements about African-American residents of that state?
  2. Using the relevant historical background provided in the subject entry on Free Blacks, what historical developments in free black life between 1800 and 1830 do you see reflected in these three documents?
  3. How do David Walker and Richard Allen challenge ideas about citizenship expressed in the 1804 Ohio black Code?

Group Three

Hosea Easton

Complexion has never been made the legal test of citizenship in any age of the world. It has been established generally by birth and blood, and by purchase, or by the ceding of a province or territory from one nation to another. But as they are denied these privileges principally on the ground of their complexion and blood, it shall be my business in this concluding chapter to show—that though their complexion is as truly American as the complexion of the whites, yet it has nothing to do in settling the question. . . . Analyze a black man, or anatomize him, and the result of research is the same as analyzing or anatomizing a white man.

The colored people being constitutionally Americans, they are depending on American climate, American ailment, American government, and American manners, to sustain their American bodies and minds; a withholding of the enjoyment of any American principle from an American man, either governmental, ecclesiastical, civil, social or alimental, is in effect taking away his means of subsistence; and consequently, taking away his life. Every ecclesiastical body which denies an American the privilege of participating in its benefits, becomes his murderer. Every state which denies an American a citizenship with all its benefits, denies him his life. Every community which denies an American the privilege of public conveyances, in common with all others, murders him by piece-meal. Every community which withholds social intercourse with an American, by which he may enjoy current information, becomes his murderer of the worst kind. The claims the colored people set up, therefore, are the claims of an American.

[. . .]

Emancipation embraces the idea that the emancipated must be placed back where slavery found them, and restore them all that slavery has taken away from them. Merely to cease beating the colored people, and leave them in their gore, and call it emancipation, is nonsense. Nothing short of an entire reversal of the slave system in theory and practice—in general and in particular—will ever accomplish the work of redeeming the colored people of this country from their present condition.


  1. According to Easton, what qualifies a person for citizenship?
  2. What does Easton mean when he says that “the claims the colored people set up are the claims of an American?”
  3. According to Easton, what should happen to former slaves once they are freed from slavery?

Petition from Colored Citizens of Boston to the Primary School Committee of the City of Boston (1846)

To the Primary School Committee of the City of Boston:

The undersigned colored citizens of Boston, parents and guardians of children now attending the exclusive Primary Schools for colored children in this City, respectfully represent: — that the establishment of exclusive schools for our children is a great injury to us, and deprives us of those equal privileges and advantages in the public schools to which we are entitled as citizens. These separate schools cost more and do less for the children than other schools, since all experience teaches that where a small and despised class are shut out from the common benefit of any public institutions of learning and confined to separate schools, few or none interest themselves about the schools, —neglect ensues, abuses creep in, the standard of scholarship degenerates, and the teachers and the scholars are soon considered and of course become an inferior class. But to say nothing of any other reasons for this change, it is sufficient to say that the establishment of separate schools for our children is believed to be unlawful, and it is felt to be if not in intention, in fact, insulting. If, as seeks to be admitted, you are violating our rights, we simply ask you to cease doing so.

We therefore earnestly request that such exclusive schools be abolished, and that our children be allowed to attend the Primary Schools established in the respective Districts in which we live.

George Putnam, and Eighty-five Others


  1. What do “George Putnam and Eighty-five Others” want and why?
  2. Who are “George Putnam and Eighty-five Others,” and who are they addressing?
  3. What does the petition say about their rights, and what does this show about how the petitioners view citizenship?

Dred Scott Decision

A free negro of the African race, whose ancestors were brought to this country and sold as slaves, is not a ‘citizen’ within the meaning of the Constitution of the United States.

In discussing this question, we must not confound the rights of citizenship which a State may confer within its own limits, and the rights of citizenship as a member of the Union. It does not by any means follow, because he has all the rights and privileges of a citizen of a State, that he must be a citizen of the United States. . . . The words ‘people of the United States’ and ‘citizens’ are synonymous terms, and mean the same thing. They both describe the political body who, according to our republican institutions, form the sovereignty, and who hold the power and conduct the Government through their representatives. They are what we familiarly call the ‘sovereign people,’ and every citizen is one of this people, and a constituent member of this sovereignty. The question before us is, whether the class of persons described in the plea in abatement compose a portion of this people, and are constituent members of this sovereignty? We think they are not, and that they are not included, and were not intended to be included, under the word ‘citizens’ in the Constitution, and can therefore claim none of the rights and privileges which that instrument provides for and secures to citizens of the United States. On the contrary, they were at that time considered as a subordinate and inferior class of beings, who had been subjugated by the dominant race, and, whether emancipated or not, yet remained subject to their authority, and had no rights or privileges but such as those who held the power and the Government might choose to grant them.

[. . . ]

In the opinion of the court, the legislation and histories of the times, and the language used in the Declaration of Independence, show, that neither the class of persons who had been imported as slaves, nor their descendants, whether they had become free or not, were then acknowledged as a part of the people, nor intended to be included in the general words used in that memorable instrument.

They had for more than a century before been regarded as beings of an inferior order, and altogether unfit to associate with the white race, either in social or political relations; and so far inferior, that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect; and that the negro might justly and lawfully be reduced to slavery for his benefit. He was bought and sold, and treated as an ordinary article of merchandise and traffic, whenever a profit could be made by it. This opinion was at that time fixed and universal in the civilized portion of the white race. It was regarded as an axiom in morals as well as in politics, which no one thought of disputing, or supposed to be open to dispute; and men in every grade and position in society daily and habitually acted upon it in their private pursuits, as well as in matters of public concern, without doubting for a moment the correctness of this opinion.


  1. According to the Decision, what is the connection between “people of the United States” and “citizens?”
  2. Why, according to the Decision, are African Americans not considered “people of the United States”?
  3. According to the Decision, slavery was “fixed and universal in the civilized portion of the white race” since before the country was founded. Based on your reading of the subject entry on Civil Rights 1619 to 1896, is this historically accurate? Why or why not?

After the group has made notes on the documents and answered the questions, have them present their findings to the class by answering the following questions. This can be done as a group homework assignment, so that students have time to present their “GROUP THREE ANALYSIS” in a more comprehensive manner. After Group 3 presents their analysis, have Group 1 and Group 2 state how their analysis compares to Group 3’s findings.

Group 3 Analysis Questions

  1. How does Hosea Easton’s definition of American citizen compare to the Dred Scott Decision’s definition of “citizens?”
  2. How does George Putnam’s petition define “rights” and how does this compare to how the Dred Scott Decision defines “people of the United States?”
  3. How does the Dred Scott Decision’s statement that slaves “had no rights that the white man was bound to respect” compare to how Easton and Putnam see themselves and their communities?

EXTRA CREDIT: For more advanced students, or for extra credit, have students answer this last statement in an essay that they can hand in and/or present to the class.