In 1857, hundreds of black Californians migrated to western Canada, where they sought to become naturalized British subjects. In less than a decade many of them returned to California. They were propelled, in the first instance, by the Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857) ruling that U.S.-born African Americans were not citizens, and in the second instance by the Fourteenth (1868) and Fifteenth (1870) Amendments that reversed Dred Scott and promised voting rights. The article explores the reasons for Vancouver Island’s racial liberalism and its initial acceptance and later political reversal of African American settlers’ rights. In the long run, this pair of transnational migrations illuminate the significant roles of African Americans in shaping the course of westward expansion of both California and Vancouver Island.
Dred Scott on the Pacific: African Americans, Citizenship, and Subjecthood in the North American West
Stacey L. Smith is an Associate Professor of History at Oregon State University where she specializes in the history of the American West and the Civil War and Reconstruction eras. She is the author of Freedom's Frontier: California and the Struggle over Unfree Labor, Emancipation, and Reconstruction (University of North Carolina Press, 2013), which won the inaugural David Montgomery Prize in U.S. labor history from the Organization of American Historians and the Labor and Working-Class History Association. She is currently working on a book on African American abolitionists and civil rights activists in the Pacific West entitled an Empire for Freedom.
Stacey L. Smith; Dred Scott on the Pacific: African Americans, Citizenship, and Subjecthood in the North American West. Southern California Quarterly 1 February 2018; 100 (1): 44–68. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/scq.2018.100.1.44
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