Milestones in White criteria for U.S. Citizenship


The legal discrimination against citizenship of non “white” persons lasted far longer than is casually assumed – well into the 20th Century. Here is a very incomplete list of milestones.

1790: the Naturalization Act required that persons had to have lived in the country for at least two years and that they be “a free white person.” Native American Indians, any other non-white person and indentured servants could not be citizen

1855: An act of Congress clarified that white women who married a naturalized (white) person was also naturalized. Yet the Expatriation Act of 1907 revoked the citizenship of any woman who married a non-citizen (but not a man who married a non-citizen.)

1868: the 14th Amendment was designed to ensure that former slaves were citizens. The amendment also stated that anyone born in the U.S. was a citizen. “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside.” Over several years, Congress barred the application of the Amendment to most native Americans. Not until an 1898 Supreme Court decision was it clear that U.S. born persons of Asian descent were automatically citizens.

1922-1923 an Act and a Supreme Court decision perpetuated and expanded discrimination against Asians. Persons from India were deemed non-white.

1924 Native American Indians were recognized as citizens. But as late as 1948 Arizona and New Mexico had laws that barred many American Indians from voting.

1946: Filipino and Indian persons allowed to become citizens

1965: The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 removed the last vestiges and ambiguities about access to citizenship status based on race or country of origin.

(Go here. For an outline of anti-Chinese legislation, go here.)

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