Race & Citizenship

What does it mean to be a citizen of the United States? Citizens have access to many important rights like voting in elections and lobbying the government.

Many people are born American citizens and can freely use these rights throughout their lives. Some immigrants and refugees can become Americans through the process of naturalization. Yet, others have been denied citizenship.

Does a person have to look, speak, or act a certain way to be an American? Leaders have sometimes used race to decide who is and who is not a citizen. Until the end of the Civil War, enslaved people had no rights. Many Asian immigrants typically could not be citizens until laws changed in the mid-1900s. Many people during United States history have struggled to become citizens and sometimes just to stay citizens.