Who’s an American citizen?

1600s Most of various tribes scattered throughout the continent didn’t know whether they were Americans as there was no one to tell them

1774 Continental Congress leaves it to each state to decide who shall be a voting citizen

1776 Full citizenship to white male property owners, with six states granting it to all white males whether they had property or not. Some states had higher property qualifications than others and some even required membership in a specified religion.

1790 Naturalization of foreign ‘free white persons’ permitted. Women carried the legal status of their husbands.

1795 Naturalization denied free whites unwilling to give up foreign titles of nobility

1812-21 Six western states join the union with full white male suffrage. Four of the original states abolish property requirements

1830 Indian Removal Act passes Congress, calling for relocation of eastern Indians to a territory west of the Mississippi River. Cherokees contest it in court, and in 1832, the Supreme Court decides in their favor, but Andrew Jackson ignores the decision. From 1831-39, the Five Civilized tribes of the Southeast are relocated to the Indian Territory. The Cherokee “Trail of Tears” takes place in 1838-39.

1853-56 United States acquires 174 million acres of Indian lands through 52 treaties, all of which it will subsequently break.

1856 North Carolina becomes the last state to abolish the property requirement. Previously barred Catholics and non-Christians are enfranchised and in a few states even immigrants not yet naturalized are allowed to vote.

1857 Under Dred Scott decision, no black person can be a U.S. citizen.

1858 Stephen Douglas debates Abraham Lincoln, arguing that “I believe the government was made on the white basis. I believe it was made by white men for the benefit of white men and their posterity for ever, and I am in favor of confining citizenship to white men. . . instead of conferring it upon Negroes, Indians, and other inferior races.” Lincoln disagrees.

1866 Civil Rights Act declares all persons born in the U.S. – except Indians – to be natural citizens

1869 Territory of Wyoming grants women suffrage in state elections

1870 15th Amendment is passed: “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” South deals with the amendment by instituting polls taxes, literacy tests and grandfather clauses that limit the vote to the offspring of the formerly enfranchised. Naturalization of black immigrants (but not Asians) is permitted.

1871 Residents of the District of Columbia lose the right to vote for mayor and city council as a territorial form of government with appointed governor is installed

1874 Supreme Court rules that it is not unconstitutional to deny women the right to vote.

1875 Page Law bars entry of Chinese, Japanese, and “Mongolian” prostitutes, felons, and contract laborers

1878 Chinese are ruled not eligible for naturalized citizenship

1882 Chinese Exclusion Law suspends immigration of laborers for ten years. Late 19th century exclusion from naturalization includes prostitutes, convicted felons, lunatics, polygamists and persons likely to be a ‘public charge’ Early 20th century exclusion from naturalization includes anarchists, communists, and the illiterate.

1902 Chinese exclusion is extended for another ten years.

1904 Chinese exclusion is made indefinite

1915 Eleven states have given women the right to vote

1918 Servicemen of Asian ancestry who served in World War I receive right of naturalization

1919 American Indian soldiers and sailors receive citizenship.

1920 The 20th Amendment, giving women the right to vote, is ratified

1923 Asian Indians ruled not eligible for naturalized citizenship.

1924 Congress gives the right to vote to original Americans, the Indians.

1940 Congress passes Nationalities Act granting citizenship to all Native Americans without diluting tribal authority.

1941 After declaring war on Japan, 10,000 Japanese-Americans along Pacific Coast states and Hawaii are rounded up and interned in Department of Justice camps.

1943 The Chinese Exclusion Act is repealed. The annual immigration quota for Chinese is set at 105.

1945 The War Brides Act permits immigration of Asian spouses and children of American servicemen in the war.

1946 Luce-Celler bill grants right of naturalization and small immigration quotas to Asian Indians and Filipinos

1949 5000 highly educated Chinese in the U.S. granted refugee status after China institutes a Communist government.

1952 One clause of the McCarran-Walter Act grants the right of naturalization and a small immigration quota to Japanese.

1957 Utah becomes the last state to permit Indians to vote

1965 Immigration Law abolishes “national origins” as basis for allocating immigration quotas to various countries – Asian countries now on equal footing.

1974 Residents of the District of Columbia regain the right to vote for mayor and city council lost over a century earlier but still lack voting representation in Congress or real power over their budget and criminal justice system.

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