Logo: Civil Discourse, An American Legacy Toolkit
New United States citizens raising their right hands as they take the oath of citizenship.


The concept of American citizenship has evolved since America’s founding. Connected to the right to vote, the experience of citizenship has been different for many in America. Explore events, texts, and decisions such as the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 to consider the evolution of citizenship in America and its dichotomy of inclusion and exclusion. Prepare to engage in discourse on what makes an American citizen.

Podcasts & Videos

Citizenship at the Founding: Citizenship, Part 1

  1. Watch and listen to the 60-Second Civics video below. If you'd like, you can also read along using the script that appears below the quiz. Or you can turn on the video's subtitles and read while watching the video.
  2. Take the Daily Civics Quiz. If you get the question wrong, watch the video again or read the script and try again.
Episode Description
Dr. Donna Phillips: Welcome to 60-Second Civics, the daily podcast of the Center for Civic Education. I'm Donna Phillips. Today we introduce our series on citizenship in America as part of our Civil Discourse: An American Legacy Project. We are joined by special guest Professor Henry L. Chambers Jr of University of Richmond School of Law. Welcome, Professor Chambers.

Professor Henry L. Chambers Jr: Good to see you.

Dr. Donna Phillips: Thank you to Professor Chambers. What was citizenship at the founding of our country?

Professor Henry L. Chambers Jr: Citizenship at the founding of our country was somewhat unclear. When we knitted ourselves together through the Constitution, we had to 13 different states and there was state citizenship. But each state had a slightly different way of looking at its own citizenship. So what happened was, when the states came together, the American citizenship was just an amalgamation of all 13 citizenships next to one another. So there was a little bit of of a lack of clarity. There was a recognition that citizenship mattered, however. And we see that, for example, in the Constitution where only natural-born citizens or people who were citizens of the United States at the time of the framing were considered eligible for running for president. That tells us that citizenship mattered, but it didn't tell us what citizenship actually was.

Dr. Donna Phillips: Thank you so much for joining us today, Professor Chambers. That is all for today's podcast. 60-Second Civics, where civic education only takes a minute.

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